Health x Wellness

Can Men Get Yeast Infections (Candidiasis)?

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Although yeast infections are more common among women, men can get yeast infections too.

In fact, yeast infections in men are amongst the most common medical conditions that we see at DTAP clinic. The yeast infection is caused by fungus which are normally present on our skin and inside our body, such a the mouth and gut without causing any problems. However, when there is an overgrowth, it can cause infections or cause more serious complications if it migrates deep within the body, for example the bloodstream or internal organs.

What causes yeast infection in men?

In uncircumcised men, the foreskin covers the head of the penis most of the time, creating a warm and moist environment beneath the foreskin. This is an ideal condition for Candida colonisation. 

Furthermore, poor hygiene practices allow a gradual buildup of dead skin cells, remnant urine and soap particles to get trapped beneath the foreskin that will result yeast infection in men. On the other hand, overzealous washing with perfumed shower gels or soaps may also cause skin irritation. 

Another common cause of a penile yeast infection is unprotected sexual intercourse with a woman who has a vaginal yeast infection. Having unprotected sex with someone with yeast infection can possibly increase the quantity of yeast around the penile area, causing an overgrowth that can develop into a yeast infection.

Although yeast infections may occur as a result of sexual intercourse, it is not considered as a sexually transmitted Infection (STI) because men can get the infection without having sex.

What are the signs of yeast infection in men?

Men with yeast infection often experience itching and a burning feeling on the penis, which worsens after having sex. There may be signs of redness and swelling and sometimes tight, shiny skin on the head of penis and some difficulty retracting the foreskin. Skin on the penis may be moist and there may be thick lumpy discharge under the foreskin and an unpleasant odour. 

More severe symptoms include ulceration of the penis and fissuring or cracking of the foreskin.

Complications are rare, but in the worst cases of recurrent balanitis, on top of all the symptoms mentioned before, individuals may also develop urethral strictures causing difficult urination, and inability to retract the foreskin. This is termed Balanitis Xerotica Obliterans (BXO).

Who are at risk for yeast infections?

There are a number of factors which increases the risk of developing yeast infections for men. Being uncircumcised, prolonged usage or prolonged usages of antibiotics or corticosteroids, obesity, poor hygiene practices, tight foreskin (Phimosis) or medical conditions that cause impairment of the immune system, particularly Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) are some of the more common ones.

The other very common patient group at risk of yeast infection are patients with diabetes mellitus (DM). DM can lead to a reduced immune response and together with the raised blood sugar, increases the risk of developing a yeast infection. 

How can men prevent yeast infections?

Good hygiene habits go a long way in preventing yeast infections. Some simple tips to keep in mind are:

  • Fully retract the foreskin if possible, and wash under the foreskin and around the head of the penis daily using warm water
  • It is not advisable to use soap as it may irritate the skin. Instead, a neutral soap-free cleanser can be use
  • Dry the head of the penis gently after washing
  • When passing urine, retract the foreskin so that urine does not get under the foreskin. After passing urine, dry the end of the penis before repositioning the foreskin.
  • Wash and dry the penis after sexual intercourse and masturbation

How are yeast infections in men treated? 

Candida Balanitis can be easily treated with antifungal drugs called azoles.

Your doctor may prescribe you either a course of oral or topical medications or both. If there is marked inflammation or itching, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal ointment that also contains hydrocortisone, which is a mild steroid. If concomitant bacterial infection is present, antibiotics may be prescribed as well.

If an individual and his partner both have symptoms of yeast infection, it is important that both receive treatment in order to avoid reinfection.

The long term solution is to undergo a circumcision. This procedure removes the foreskin completely and exposes the head of the penis, thus eliminating the risk of future Candida overgrowth. Circumcision is especially advised in cases of recurrent balanitis to prevent the development of BXO.

Dr Zeng Shanyong is the resident doctor at DTAP Clinic, he firmly believes that holistic patient care is at the very heart and soul of his medical practice. He feels that good patient-physician communication is important and believes in working closely with patients to achieve their desired goals and outcome.

Photo by Ales Krivec on Unsplash