For many, the mention of a yeast infection makes them think of women's health issues, but males can also develop this uncomfortable condition. Male yeast infections are rarer than their female counterparts, and they differ in several key ways. Candida albicans, an opportunistic pathogenic yeast, causes most of the infections for both males and females, though other yeast may also be responsible.
Most people think of yeast infections as primarily a genital issue, but the organisms can cause problems in almost any warm and moist location, including the armpits, mouth, genitals, and various skin folds. A yeast infection of the mouth is thrush, while a yeast infection of the skin is cutaneous candidiasis. Yeast infections specific to males are those of the penis and the foreskin, which are candidal balanitis and candidal balanoposthitis, respectively.
Candidal balanitis can present with several symptoms, the most common of which is inflammation. Burning and itching near the glans of the penis can also occur and may worsen after having sex or masturbating. Papules, rash-like bumps, containing pus may develop. Pain during urination, sex, or masturbation is also possible. Candidal balanoposthitis shares these symptoms, though it may also cause the foreskin to become tight, which is called phimosis. A foul smell may emanate from the penis or foreskin in some infections.
The organisms responsible for yeast infections are almost always present on human skin. Certain actions and factors can cause an overgrowth of the yeast, leading to a yeast infection. One such factor is having sex with a female who has a yeast infection. Yeast can be transmitted to another person through oral, anal, or vaginal sex. However, candidal balanitis and balanoposthitis do not qualify as sexually transmitted infections because they can be acquired without having sex. Poor hygiene is one of the largest contributing factors for male yeast infections.
Certain men are more likely to develop yeast infections than others. One of the main risk factors is the presence of a foreskin. Uncircumcised males who fail to practice proper hygiene or who have other contributing conditions are at risk of developing yeast infections. Other possible factors are prolonged antibiotic use, use of corticosteroids, diabetes, and obesity. Conditions that impair the immune system, such as HIV, can also increase the likelihood of developing a yeast infection.
Yeast infections are not as common in males as they are in females, though the exact prevalence remains a mystery. Some studies suggest that between 16 and 27% of males carry Candida bacteria and almost 40% experience no symptoms. Candida yeasts are responsible for up to 35% of all balantitis cases.
Complications with balanitis and balanoposthitis are rare, though they are possible. Some males experience extreme phimosis, which makes it impossible to retract the foreskin. Cellulitis, inflammation of the inner layers of skin, can also occur. In some cases, inflammation causes the urethra to narrow, making urinating extremely difficult or painful.
Treating male yeast infections is usually simple. A variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications can combat Candida and other bacteria. Many of these drugs involve topical application to kill the bacteria. Doctors will sometimes pair antifungal medications with drugs to reduce the inflammation resulting from the infection. Some species of have become incredibly resistant to medications and require stronger treatments.
Preventing penile yeast infections requires following a few simple guidelines. Wearing a condom during sex can dramatically reduce the risk of infection. Additionally, avoid having sex with partners who have yeast infections. Sexual monogamy can also lower the risk, though there have been cases of monogamous partners repeatedly giving each other yeast infections. Practicing proper hygiene is also key.
At least once a day, males should gently wash the penis with warm water. Uncircumcised males should pull back their foreskin to properly clean the area. Adding a gentle soap can help remove any bacteria, though experts advise against using perfumed or scented varieties, as they can irritate the skin and lead to infection.
Some people may not realize that their clothing could contribute to their yeast infections. Yeast thrive in warm, moist environments with low airflow. Tighter clothes, such as briefs, can provide an ideal environment for yeast infections. Breathable fabrics such as cotton and linen and clothing choices like boxer briefs help combat the issue. Additionally, it is important to properly wash all clothes that are in regular contact with the genitals. Otherwise, the bacteria may accumulate on the fabric.
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