It can be difficult to nail down the cause of your vagina’s white discharge. Can white discharge mean that you have a yeast infection? Possibly. However, it can also mean a number of other things. In fact, a yeast infection is only one of the possible reasons for the abnormal vaginal discharge you’re experiencing.
What is a Yeast Infection?
It can be difficult to tell whether you have a yeast infection since the signs and symptoms are usually similar to other infections and sexually transmitted diseases. First step in determining whether you have a yeast infection is to know a little more about what a yeast infection actually is. After all, knowledge is power, right?
Yeast infections are caused by a fungus called Candida. If the environment inside the vagina changes in a way that encourages the growth of Candida, the fungus can multiply and cause an infection. Many things can cause this fungus to grow, such as hormonal changes, diabetes or antibiotics. In fact, three out of every four women experience at least one yeast infection in their lives. More than half experience several infections.
Recognizing the Signs of a Yeast Infection
As we mentioned above, white discharge can in fact mean that you have a yeast infection. However, this white discharge may very well be the sign of something else, such as BV or an STI.
Let’s look at yeast infections first. If symptoms occur at all, they may include the following:
- A thick, white vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese but has no odor
- Itching, burning, and/or redness and swelling in and around the vagina. The more you itch, the more severe your irritation can get.
- Pain during sex
- Discomfort when urinating
What Else Can My White Discharge Mean?
Since the signs of a yeast infection can vary, it may help to ease your worries and properly diagnose the problem if you test for all possible culprits. That may include any or all of the following:
Bacterial Vaginosis infections occur when yeast levels get too high. Typically, “good” bacteria discourage the growth of “bad” bacteria in your vagina by producing lactic acid. If your vaginal ecosystem becomes unbalanced, infections can occur.
While they are quite similar, Bacterial Vaginosis and yeast infections do sometimes have different characteristics. For instance, when you have BV, your yeast will be thinner than the cottage-cheese-like white discharge you may have during a yeast infection. The other big difference is that BV may cause your discharge to have an odor, especially after sex, which isn’t usually the case with a yeast infection. Other symptoms of BV include itching and soreness.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
It is recommended that you get tested for the following infections in addition to yeast and BV. You see, several sexually transmitted infections present symptoms that are similar to a yeast infection or BV. Not only that, having a yeast infection or BV can also increase your risk of getting or giving an STI. This is largely because itching at a vaginal irritation can cause microscopic scratches or tears in the skin that make transmission of infections via bodily fluids much more likely.
- Trichomoniasis: This infection can cause a change in vaginal discharge that can alter its color or smell. An estimated 3.7 million people have this Trichomoniasis, but over 70% never develop any symptoms. Routine testing is necessary as reinfection can occur as soon as three months after treatment. If ignored, serious complications can occur.
- Chlamydia: Chlamydia is the 3rd most common STD in the United States. In 2017, 1.7 million cases of the infection were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can cause serious, permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive system.
- Gonorrhea: The CDC estimates that approximately 820,000 new gonorrheal infections occur in the United States each year. It also estimates that more than 2/3 of these infections were among young people 15-24 years of age.
The fact is that, whether you have a yeast infection, BV or an STI, there may not even be any symptoms. This is why getting tested is more important than you may realize.
What are my At Home Testing Options?
Not sure if your white discharge means that you have a yeast infection, BV, sexually transmitted infection or several of the above? Luckily you can test for all of these health concerns from home.
Individual Infections: myLAB Box offers individual tests for all of the infections discussed in this post (and more!), including yeast/candida, BV, chlamydia/gonorrhea and trichomoniasis.
The V-Box: Testing for all of these infections can give you a better sense of your overall health. Luckily, it is possible to take all of these tests at once from the comfort of your home. The 5-panel V-Box test kit screens for yeast/candida, BV, chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis with only a single sample set. That sure beats going to the doctor or clinic for a litany of tests! When white discharge can mean any of these things, we recommend saving some money by testing for all at once!
Here’s How it Works
- Order your STD panel kit online. Don’t worry, we even include free shipping!
- Test yourself at any time and from any place using the easy-to-follow instructions. Send your samples back to the lab with the pre-paid return envelope that comes with your kit.
- Get results online in a matter of days. You’ll receive an email, after which you can log into a secure portal for your private lab-certified results.
The only way to be sure of what you are experiencing, and learn how to best treat it, is to be fully tested. Getting your infection diagnosed and treated will relieve these uncomfortable symptoms.
Reviewed by Luis Ferdinand M. Papa, MD, MHA
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