What Happens If a Yeast Infection Goes Untreated?
Yeast infections, also known as vaginal Candidiasis, are caused by an overgrowth of yeast. The symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include itchy, irritated skin and abnormal discharge (resembling cottage cheese).
They are also common. Roughly 3 out of 4 women will experience one in their lifetime. Some women will experience recurrent yeast infections, meaning they occur four or more times within a year, shared UPMC.
But not everyone seeks treatment for their yeast infection. In this article, we explore what happens if a yeast infection goes untreated.
What happens if you don't treat a yeast infection?
The symptoms of a yeast infection in the vaginal area aren't pleasant. As the infection continues, it may get worse or it could clear up on its own.
There are different types of yeast infections. You are more likely to have a vaginal yeast infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you:
- Are pregnant
- Suffer from uncontrolled diabetes
- Have a weakened immune system
- Use a hormonal contraceptive (such as birth control pills)
- Take antibiotics
Although yeast infection may go away on their own, some yeast infections are caused by a different fungus. While most healthy people will not face complications from their yeast infection, it's important to know the facts.
There are some complications of untreated yeast infections you should know.
As the yeast infection worsens, the area becomes itchy and inflamed. Scratching the skin could cause small cuts or cracks in your skin and potentially lead to more infection, according to Planned Parenthood.
In higher-risk individuals, the potential infection could be deadly. If the Candida makes its way into the bloodstream through the wounds that have formed, it can result in a condition called Invasive Candidiasisa potentially life-threatening infection that can affect the blood, bones, eyes, brain or heart.
Over-the counter creams can help relieve the itchy and burning sensation.
If your yeast infection goes untreated for an extended period and enters your bloodstream, it’s possible it will make its way to your joints. If this happens, it can lead to Candida arthritis.
The symptoms of candida arthritis include:
- Swelling of the joints, such as the hips and knees
This kind of arthritis isn’t common. It can, however, be difficult to treat.
Difficulties related to conception and pregnancy
If you’re trying to get pregnant, you may miss your fertile window for that month, thus delaying your pregnancy. If you're using a topical treatment to cure your infection, it may make it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg.
It’s best to cure the infection completely before trying to get pregnant. You can try again during your next cycle.
Yeast infections sometimes occur in pregnant women due to the hormonal changes disrupting their natural vaginal pH. A yeast infection will rarely become serious for a baby, however, many vaginal creams and suppositories aren't approved for use while pregnant, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
It can be tricky to treat a yeast infection when you're expecting, but your doctor will help determine the best course of action for you. Talk to your medical provider about the best way to prevent an untreated yeast infection during pregnancy.
Spreading from women to men
Yeast infections can spread through sexual intercourse. It’s recommended to abstain from sexual contact during a yeast infection. That includes avoiding oral sex, vaginal sex and putting anything into the vagina (such as sex toys), until your course of treatment is complete.
Left untreated, even a mild yeast infection can make sexual intercourse painful.
Men who have sex with a woman who has a yeast infection could develop an infection. When a man gets a yeast infection, his penis may become itchy, red or grow white patches. The penis may be moist, feel like it’s burning or have a white substance forming in the folds.
Yeast infections are more common in men who aren’t circumcised. Uncircumcised men can experience pain from pulling back their irritated foreskin.
The bottom line: Don't let a yeast infection go untreated
Yeast infections can require treatment, especially in high-risk individuals. If you experience heavy bleeding during a yeast infection, contact your doctor. Remember to avoid intercourse until you are cured to avoid worsening your symptoms or passing your infection to your partner.