When something’s up down there, your first thought might be “a yeast infection” — but we’ll be the first to tell you that not every itch is a yeast infection!
Diagnosing a yeast infection correctly starts with being able to identify symptoms and ends with getting comprehensive testing to confirm that the discomfort is being caused by an overgrowth of Candida and not something else.
In fact, being misdiagnosed actually happens more often than being correctly diagnosed. A study of 220 symptomatic patients showed that a startling 77% of yeast infection diagnoses were incorrect
It’s important to learn the signs and symptoms of a yeast infection, including what it looks like, in order to better advocate for yourself at the doctor’s office.
Wondering where to start? We’re here to help.
From what a yeast infection looks like to how it feels, we break down everything you need to know about the physical manifestations of a yeast infection below.
What is a yeast infection?
A yeast infection, also known as vulvovaginal candidiasis, is caused by an overgrowth of a fungi called Candida in the vaginal microbiome. Most yeast infections (up to 90%) are caused by a species of Candida called Candida albicans.
But there are other strains that can overgrow in the same way. These include Candida glabrata (C. glabrata), which is responsible for around 5% of cases, plus C. tropicalis, C. parapsilosis, and C. krusei, among others.
What does a yeast infection look like?
When it comes to physical signs, the symptoms of a yeast infection can be vague enough that they can overlap with other vaginal conditions including share similar physical symptoms to bacterial vaginosis, cytolytic vaginosis, genital herpes, and certain vulvar conditions including vulvar lichen sclerosus, vulvar lichen planus, and contact dermatitis.
A yeast infection can look like:
- Thick, vaginal discharge that is paste-like in consistency and looks like curdled milk or cottage cheese
- A red, scaly rash that can spread beyond the vulva and onto the buttocks
- A red, swollen vulva and vagina
Yeast infections usually don’t cause wounds, ulcers, or bumps on the skin, though it can be hard to differentiate these things if your yeast infection is causing a rash so it’s best to reach out to a healthcare provider if this is the case.
Can I see a picture of what a yeast infection looks like?
One of the most frustrating things about Googling vaginal symptoms is that it’s hard to produce an image of discharge or a description of an odor that encompasses everyone’s unique vaginal symptoms. Everything from the severity of an infection to lighting and underwear color can affect the way something like “yeast infection discharge” looks in a picture. The best way to figure out if you have a yeast infection is to actually test for it!
While we don’t have a particularly helpful picture of what real yeast infection discharge looks like because it can vary so much from person to person, we’re sharing a picture of what cottage cheese looks like to help anchor you on what you should be looking for.
What does a yeast infection feel like?
Unlike bacterial vaginosis where up to 84% of people are asymptomatic, most people with a yeast infection know they have one because of the physical discomfort it causes.
Common physical symptoms of a yeast infection may include:
- Vaginal and vulvar itching, redness, or soreness
- White vaginal discharge, that is curd-like in consistency
- Pain during sex
- Soreness or stinging when you pee, or during sex
Do yeast infections smell?
Not typically! You may notice an increasingly yeasty smell down there, like beer or bread, but it’s also normal to have no odor at all. If you notice a smell you would characterize as foul, rotten, or fishy, it may be a different condition such as BV, aerobic vaginitis, trichomoniasis, or gonorrhea—in which case it’s best to seek medical attention ASAP.
What do I do if I think I have a yeast infection?
If you’re worried that you have a yeast infection, you’re not alone! Up to 75% of women will get a yeast infection in their lifetime!
Get yourself a vaginal microbiome test
Before or after you’re done making your appointment, do yourself (and your vagina) a favor by ordering a vaginal microbiome test, like Evvy’s, so you know exactly what’s up down there while you’re having symptoms.
Like we mentioned above, many of the symptoms associated with a yeast infection: burning, itching, inflammation, discharge, and pain with sex and urination overlap with those of other vaginal conditions such as:
- Aerobic vaginitis
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Cytolytic vaginosis
- Vulvar dermatitis
- Vulvar lichen sclerosus
- Vulvar lichen planus
Unlike a PCR test, which only looks for the presence of select microbes, an Evvy test will tell you all of the types of bacteria and fungi in your vaginal microbiome, and their relative amounts.
That means we test for Candida albicans, Candida glabrata, C. tropicalis, C. parapsilosis, and C. krusei, among others with a single swab.
Knowing this information can help you and your doctor make a plan for maintaining vaginal health that feels good for you and your body.
Get care for yeast infections with Evvy
We've created the first-ever platform for vaginal healthcare that combines state-of-the-art vaginal microbiome testing, prescription treatment, and 1:1 coaching to get you the answers, relief, and support that you deserve.
Built with leading OB-GYNs and researchers, Evvy's care platform can connect you to providers trained to review your vaginal microbiome results and select the best antifungal to decrease your specific strains of Candida (including ones that aren't often tested for at the doctor's office.)
They'll also recommend research-backed supplements to build back your microbiome to a protective state!