Do I Have a Yeast Infection, or Something Else?

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on January 25, 2022
2 min read

Yeast infections can be uncomfortable, but they’re usually not serious. You may have itching or irritation in or around your vagina, as well as a thick, white discharge. In many cases, an antifungal treatment will clear up your symptoms.

If you’re not sure whether you have a yeast infection or something else, it’s important to see a doctor for the right diagnosis and treatment. This is important. If you don’t really have a yeast infection, antifungals won’t help you get better. They can actually prolong the real problem, because while you’ll think you’re treating the issue, the real cause will continue to develop.

There are several reasons you might have symptoms that are like a yeast infection.

Herpes, genital warts and trichomoniasis (trich) can also cause irritation, itchiness, and discharge that has a slight odor. With other sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea, you don’t always have symptoms, but you might experience pain and burning when you pee.

STDs often need a different kind of treatment than a yeast infection. For example, trich isn’t caused by a  fungus. It’s caused by bacteria. To treat it, you’ll usually need to take strong antibiotics for a short period of time.

This is an infection that’s caused by an overgrowth of bacteria. There’s no specific cause for it, but along with redness and itchiness, you might notice discharge that’s gray or white and has a fishy odor.

If you have BV, your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics like metronidazole or tinidazole, or vaginally applied antibiotic creams or gels with metronidazole or clindamycin.

Cleaning products can trigger symptoms if you’re allergic to one or more of their ingredients. Soaps and feminine hygiene products can sometimes do this, as can laundry detergents.

Certain skin conditions can also cause itching and other symptoms. They sometimes require treatment with steroid ointments like hydrocortisone.

Small cuts can even feel itchy and irritated while they’re healing.

Hemorrhoids may be itchy. They can affect the area in and around the vagina. too. Typical home treatments are a sitz bath (warm water you sit in to help relieve pain in your bottom or around your private parts) or witch hazel wipes to soothe the symptoms.

As you get older, your level of estrogen goes down. This can cause changes in your body, like thinner skin. That can lead to uncomfortable symptoms like itching and discharge.

Sometimes, using a vaginal lubricant to reduce friction can help. You may also want to talk to your doctor about taking a small dose of estrogen.