At the first sign of a vaginal itch, it's easy to assume you've been plagued with a yeast infection. However, all that itching, burning, and discharge could actually be something else, so it's important to look out for any signs that your yeast infection is not actually a yeast infection after all. Yeast infections are common — 75 percent of women will get one at least once in their life, according to Mayo Clinic — but because so many women self-diagnose, they often mistake another type of infection or type of irritation without even realizing it.
"It’s like yeast is the only infection women think can occur in the vagina, when in fact there is such a thing as normal, physiologic discharge, other types of vaginitis such as bacterial vaginosis, or even contact dermatitises that can cause vaginal/vulvar itching," says Angela Jones, M.D., FACOG over email.
It's important to make sure you're treating the right type of issue to prevent any further complications down the line, which makes it essential you truly know what's going on down there. If your symptoms aren't getting better, you might want to look out for these nine signs that your yeast infection is actually something else.
1It Doesn't Get Better With Over-The-Counter Treatment
Got yourself from Monistat, but you don't show any improvements after the treatment? You might not have a yeast infection. "Most yeast infections should resolve with OTC meds," says Sara Twogood, MD, FACOG over email. "If they don't you're likely treating the wrong cause." It is possible to have a resistant yeast strain, so you'll want to see a doctor who can determine this through a culture.
2It Has A Bad Odor
Yeast infections often come with discharge, but it won't have a strong smell. "If there is an abnormal odor — an unpleasant or fishy odor— it is more likely to be caused by a bacterial imbalance known as bacterial vaginosis," says Jonathan Schaffir, MD over email. "This is a very common cause of vaginal discharge and discomfort."
3Your Partner Has The Same Symptoms
"Yeast infections are not transmitted through sexual contact," says Twogood. "If your [partner] has the same symptoms, you should both be evaluated for STIs. That being said, sometimes sexual contact with a new partner can cause a temporary imbalance of the normal vagina flora, which can predispose a woman to a yeast infection. Regardless, it should be evaluated."
4There's A Lot Of Discharge
Discharge can be a symptom of a yeast infection, but there are copious amounts, it's likely something else. "Yeast infections are usually accompanied by white, thick, creamy, 'cottage cheese-"like discharge," says Twogood. "The texture and type of discharge changes, but women don't usually complain about the amount of discharge."
5You Get It After A Bubble Bath
There is a common misconception that bubble baths cause yeast infections. "It is far more likely that the strong detergents, dyes, or fragrance additives that are added to such products cause irritation of the delicate vaginal skin, and there is no actual infection," says Schaffir. "Avoidance of the irritant will usually clear it up."
6You Have Abdominal Pain
"The majority of vaginal infections are limited to the vulva and vagina, and they rarely make their way to the cervix, the uterus, the tubes and the pelvis/abdomen," says reproductive endocrinologist Jaime M. Knopman, MD over email. "However, some sexually transmitted diseases (think chlamydia and gonorrhea), can make their way from the vagina to the uterus, the tubes, the ovaries, and the pelvis." These can cause some serious infertility if not treated, so don’t ignore any abdominal pain.
7You Have A Fever
A yeast infection doesn't cause a fever. "Although the majority of vaginal infections are super annoying, they won’t make you super sick," says Knopman. "Therefore, when a woman reports a fever as well as vaginal discharge, we start to think of things like gonorrhea, chlamydia, or even an infection in the kidneys."
8It Hurts To Pee
"Although vaginal discomfort can make urinating super uncomfortable, pain with urination is usually the tell tale sign of a urinary tract infection," says Knopman. "In addition, women who report urinary frequency and urgency along with urinary discomfort are more likely to have a urinary tract infection rather than a vaginal infection."
9You Get It After Unprotected Sex
"Vaginal discharge and itching may be due to trichomoniasis, an infection with an organism that is sexually transmitted," says Schaffir. "Though easily treated, it will come right back if both partners are not treated."