What Can Happen If You Leave Your Yeast Infection Untreated

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A yeast infection is a common condition that impacts millions of people every year. While these skin infections are normally benign and clear up with over-the-counter creams, an untreated yeast infection can have serious consequences to your health.

On our skin are a variety of bacteria and fungi. In moderation, Candida—a kind of yeast—is a healthy part of our body. However, Candida can sometimes overgrow and cause rashes, itching, and pain. Yeast infections can impact your mouth, genitals, and other areas of your body.

Do Yeast Infections Go Away on Their Own?

Most yeast infections need medical treatment, either from a doctor or at-home care, before they resolve. Occasionally, a mild yeast infection may clear up by itself. However, most yeast infections won’t improve unless you make some medical or lifestyle changes.

Yeast like Candida flourishes in warm, moist environments like in between the folds of the skin, so a yeast infection can get worse unless you keep the affected area dry and clean. If you have a risk factor like diabetes, stress, an autoimmune condition, or take antibiotics, you’re more likely to develop a yeast infection.

Some ways to treat a yeast infection include over-the-counter creams, prescription medications, and home remedies like gargling diluted hydrogen peroxide.

If you notice itchy, rashy skin, it’s possible that you have a yeast infection. However, you may have misdiagnosed your own condition. Eczema, some sexually transmitted infections (STI), and other skin conditions can present similar symptoms as yeast infections. Seeing a doctor is a good way to rule out other possible conditions that may be more serious.

Complications From Untreated Yeast Infections

Yeast infections generally get worse if left untreated. Depending on where on your body you have developed the infection, you may experience different symptoms and complications. Fortunately, most mild to moderate yeast infections are simple to cure.

Vaginal Yeast Infections

Vaginal yeast infections are one of the most common types of candidiasis. In fact, 75% of women will have more than one vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime. Patients may report tenderness, milky discharge, a new odor, itching, a burning sensation when urinating, and pain in the vagina or around the vulva.

If you leave a vaginal yeast infection untreated, you may experience complications. Since Candida can irritate your skin, a yeast infection can lead to bleeding and open sores. Especially if you itch the affected area, you may experience infected wounds, swelling, and cracked skin. These potential symptoms will likely worsen without treatment.

When treated, a yeast infection will not prevent pregnancy. But recurring or untreated yeast infections can be an obstacle if you are trying to conceive. Candidiasis alters the skin in your vagina, so it can thicken the mucus that lines your vagina and your cervix, and impede sperm from traveling to the fallopian tubes.

Treatment for vaginal yeast infection may include an internal cream like miconazole or an antifungal pill, fluconazole. 

Oral Thrush

Oral thrush is a yeast infection of the mouth. This condition is especially common in infants and young children. Symptoms of oral thrush include a white film over the tongue, white-covered sores in your mouth, a lingering bad taste, pain when swallowing, and redness or inflammation on the inside of your cheeks or in your throat.

Some people are more likely to develop oral thrush. Risk factors include diabetes, a diet high in sugar, poor oral hygiene, dry mouth, and immunosuppression (such as in HIV/AIDS). Since yeast feeds on sugar and grows in moist, dark environments, these conditions can exacerbate oral thrush.

If patients leave oral thrush untreated, the candidiasis may travel to their esophagus or—more rarely and more deadly—into their bloodstream. Over time, oral thrush can result in growing sores on the tongue, cheeks, lips, gums, and in your throat. This irritation can make it difficult to eat, drink, or speak.

Your doctor may recommend you treat your oral thrush with an antifungal pill, a medicated oral solution, drinking plenty of water to dissuade further yeast growth, and rinsing your mouth with salt water or diluted hydrogen peroxide.

Balanitis

Around 10% of males will develop balanitis—irritation near the head of the penis, often caused by a yeast infection. Candida can multiply in folds of the skin, where moisture can develop or where people may not wash effectively. If you are uncircumcised, you are more likely to develop balanitis on or around the foreskin.

Without treatment, balanitis can lead to balanoposthitis or inflammation of the foreskin. This swelling, redness, and irritation make urinating and intercourse painful.

Treatment for balanitis may include a medicated cream, washing with water and unscented soap, and, in rare cases of more severe, chronic balanitis, circumcision.

Other Skin Yeast Infections

You may develop candidiasis elsewhere on your skin. Potential locations for yeast infections include the folds of skin on your stomach, thighs, breasts, anus, toes, and between your buttocks.

Depending on where you experience your infection, your symptoms may be different. However, many people report burning, itching, redness, and minor swelling during their candidiasis.

No matter where candidiasis is located on your body, you may have negative health impacts if you do not treat it. Your irritated skin can lead to other skin infections and more severe pain.

If your doctor recommends that you try an over-the-counter cream to treat candidiasis, ensure that you are using the proper cream for your particular condition. Certain creams are designed to treat external yeast infections, like those between your buttocks or on your stomach.

Other creams, such as suppositories, are intended for internal use, specifically to treat vaginal yeast infections. 

You Can Spread an Untreated Yeast Infection

Yeast infections are not contagious in the way a virus might be, and they’re not a type of STI. Every person has Candida on their body and in their mouth and digestive system, usually without causing problems.

It’s normal to rub some of these tiny organisms onto another person when you hug, kiss, breastfeed, share a toothbrush, or have sex. But if you have a yeast infection, it’s possible that you can transfer more Candida than usual to someone that you touch. 

Transferring Candida from one person to another isn’t enough to make that person develop a yeast infection. However, if that person is already at risk for candidiasis (such as if they have diabetes, poor hygiene, or an autoimmune condition), they can also develop their own yeast infection.

You can avoid spreading candidiasis by brushing your teeth before and after kissing; not sharing towels, sex toys, bathing suits, or underwear; using condoms and dental dams; and pumping milk or abstaining from breastfeeding if your child has oral thrush.

A Word From Verywell

Yeast infections can be frustrating, and you may feel uncomfortable in your own skin. While you may be tempted to ignore your symptoms, candidiasis tends to get worse before it gets better.

Fortunately, you have many options to help you treat your condition. Many pharmacies sell creams or suppositories that both relieve your skin irritation and kill off extra yeast. In more severe cases, you may want to visit your doctor. Your doctor can confirm if a yeast infection is the source of your pain and can prescribe an oral tablet or other medications.

With these treatment strategies, you can feel more at home again in your skin.

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