If you're someone with a vagina, you've likely gotten a yeast infection once before — or you've at least heard of someone who has. However, knowing if you have a yeast infection isn't always that obvious, and there are some subtle signs of a yeast infection that you should never ignore. For some women, they severe itchiness is indication enough that something is wrong down there, but other women have different symptoms that doesn't always make it clear about what exactly is going on.
"A healthy amount of yeast lives quietly in the vagina helping keep the vagina in check," says women's health expert Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN over email. "Anything that disrupts the natural acidic balance of the vagina can lead to an overgrowth of abnormal fungus also known as a yeast infection."
If you do have a yeast infection, it's important to treat it, not only because it can cause discomfort but because it can predispose you to other infections, says Sarah Yamaguchi, MD, OB/GYN over email. However, Yamaguchi does note that sometimes yeast infections can go away on their own.
Yeast infections can be prevented by wearing cotton underwear, avoiding tight-fitting clothing, and making sure your diet is high in probiotics, according to WebMD. However, if you're not sure if you've got a yeast infection or not, consider watching out for these six symptoms.
1. Thick Discharge
"Discharge that is thick and chunky like cottage cheese is the most common symptoms," says Yamaguchi. Regular vaginal discharge is normal, and it can vary in odor and hue, ranging from clear to milky white, according to WebMD. However, if the consistency and odor suddenly changes, and because more thick and white, it may be a sign you have a yeast infection.
"The next most common is itching either inside or outside the vagina," says Yamaguchi. "This is from the infection of the yeast in the tissue causing extra discharge and inflammation." This can be just minor itching, or it could be something severe and constant.
"Another common symptom is vaginal dryness with sex despite discharge," says Yamanguchi. "This is because the discharge is not lubrication, so when you are sexually aroused, the normal lubrication is not present."
Your yeast infection may cause an odor down there that resembles a more yeasty, bread-like smell. If your odor seems more fishy, you may have a bacterial infection instead, according to Everyday Health.
5. Pain During Urination
"Another symptom is burning during urination," says Yamaguchi. "This is also from irritation of the tissue from the infection." Vaginal burning can result from soreness, redness, and inflammation of the vulva and labia.
6. Pain During Sex
"While you may not have the classic symptoms such as burning, itching, and discharge, a sign of a yeast infection that you may not think about is pain and discomfort with sex, in the absence of other sexual problems," says Nicole E. Williams, MD, FACOG over email. A yeast infection can cause swelling of the vulva, which can make penetration particularly painful.
If you're ever unsure, it's best to see a doctor to make sure you have the correct diagnosis so you can treat whatever is going on down there properly. "“I recommend that you do not ignore it if you still feel symptoms after you use an over the counter treatment for a yeast infection, as it can be a sign that you have something other than a yeast infection," says Yamaguchi.
Images: Pixabay (3); Isla Murray, Dawn Foster/Bustle