What is a Male Yeast Infection?
A yeast infection is often thought of as a female health problem, but it can affect anyone, including men. A penile yeast infection, if not treated, can lead to a wide range of painful, uncomfortable, and potentially embarrassing symptoms. It can also lead to serious complications if the infection spreads into your bloodstream. A male yeast infection is an infection of the area around your penis and testicles caused by an overgrowth of a common fungus we all have on our skin. You usually hear about women having yeast infections or what doctors call candidiasis. But men can get them, too.
In men, yeast infections are sometimes called penile yeast infections, Candida balanitis, or balanitis thrush. Candida balanitis, or thrush, is the most common type of yeast infection in men. It often causes inflammation of the head of the penis. (1) In people who are not circumcised, yeast may also infect the foreskin. That condition is called candida balanoposthitis. Candida yeasts cause up to 60% of all yeast infections that involve the foreskin. More research needs to be done before researchers can say how many people are affected yearly. (2)
Causes and Risk Factors of Male Yeast Infection
Candida albicans is a common fungus. You’ve probably got a small amount living in your mouth, digestive tract, or on moist parts of your skin. Women often have some in their vaginas. Most of the time, Candida doesn’t cause any problems. But if too much of it grows in one place, you get a yeast infection.
You could get this inside your mouth (doctors call this oral thrush) or as a skin infection. Men can also get a yeast infection on the tip of their penis. This leads to balanitis. It’s more common in men who aren’t circumcised and have a foreskin that’s still intact.
You’re more likely to get a yeast infection if you have been taking antibiotics for a long time, you have diabetes, you are overweight, have a weak immune system (like people who have HIV), you have trouble cleaning yourself, you are sensitive to soaps, perfumes, and chemicals or you use steroids.
Yeast can pass from one person to another through sex. Even so, balanitis is not considered a sexually transmitted infection. That’s because you can get it without having sex. (3) Other risk factors include not being circumcised, tight-fitting underwear or wet clothing, hot and humid environments, using condoms that contain lubricants and spermicides. (2)
Symptoms of Male Yeast Infection
Yeast infections don’t usually cause symptoms right away. Once symptoms do show up, they can cause discomfort and pain. (4)
Symptoms may include burning when you urinate, sores, cracking, or bleeding on the foreskin, itching, white, lumpy, foul-smelling discharge, discomfort during sex, redness and swelling at the top of the penis, small rash-like bumps that may have pus in them and patches of white, shiny skin at the top of the penis.
Redness, itchiness, and pain in the penis can be signs of other more serious conditions, including some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), so don’t ignore symptoms once they appear. A urologist or your primary care doctor can diagnose the condition, often in a single appointment.
When Should I Go See A Doctor?
Men who have never had a yeast infection or who have severe symptoms should see a doctor. It is also important to see a doctor when an infection does not clear on its own. Symptoms could be signs of diabetes or conditions that weaken the immune system.
Untreated yeast infections could cause chronic prostatitis, an inflammation of the prostate gland. (5) They can also can lead to phimosis or tightening of the foreskin, narrowing of the opening of the urethra, balanitis xerotica obliterans, which causes white, scaly, itchy patches that can lead to scarring or leukoplakia, thickened white patches inside the mouth. If a yeast infection is severe, a swab from around the top part of the penis may be tested. If sores don’t heal, a biopsy might be needed.
Treatment and Home Remedies for Male Yeast Infection:
Most mild yeast infections don’t need treatment. However, antifungal creams or oral medications can help with symptoms. (6, 7) These medications are available over the counter (OTC) or with a prescription. If you haven’t been treated for a yeast infection before, you should see a doctor before using OTC antifungal medications for the first time.
In most cases, topical antifungal ointments and creams are enough to clear up an infection. Many of the antifungal creams recommended for a yeast infection include miconazole (Lotrimin AF, Cruex, Desenex, Ting Antifungal), imidazole (Canesten, Selezen) and clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF, Anti-Fungal, Cruex, Desenex, Lotrimin AF Ringworm).
Most of these are available as OTC medications, meaning you will not need a prescription. However, more serious or longer-term infections may require a prescription-strength medication. For example, oral fluconazole (Diflucan) and hydrocortisone cream may be advised in serious infections, such as those that have developed into a potentially serious condition called balanitis.
Sometimes yeast infections return after they appear to be cured. If this occurs, your doctor will likely recommend weekly treatments for several months following a couple of weeks of daily treatment. Most antifungal creams are well tolerated. Therefore, you’re not likely to have any serious side effects. Check the label, however, and ask your doctor and pharmacist what to look out for in case you have a bad reaction.
If your infection doesn’t respond well to an antifungal ointment and you are uncircumcised, you may be advised to have a circumcision. Though this surgical procedure is typically done on infants, it can be done safely on a man of any age.
Along with using the medicated cream, you should also practice good hygiene to help clear up any lingering infection. Factors such as diabetes and a suppressed immune system may contribute to your yeast infection risk. If you have diabetes, work with your healthcare providers to ensure your blood sugar levels are well controlled. If you have a suppressed immune system, your doctor can recommend ways to help keep your immune system as healthy as possible.
Prevention of Male Yeast Infection
Good hygiene can help prevent and treat yeast infections. Wash your penis regularly with plain warm water. Avoid shower gels and soaps, and be sure to dry well after you wash. Perfumed shower gels or soaps should never be used on the genitals. It’s a good idea to wear loose-fitting cotton underwear or boxers to keep genitals dry and cool. These steps can prevent yeast growth.
Complications of Male Yeast Infection:
If your immune system is weak, there’s a chance that the fungus can spread into your bloodstream. This is a serious condition called invasive candidiasis. The odds are higher when you have HIV, have diabetes, have chemotherapy or radiation, need dialysis, take immune-suppressants (drugs that quiet your immune system), or have a central venous catheter (a tube in your chest that’s used to give you medicine).
A high fever, chills, upset stomach, and headache are all signs that your yeast infection may have spread. If you notice these symptoms, call your doctor right away.
The bottom line
Yeast infections involving the penis aren’t very common. They often clear up on their own, but if symptoms get worse, you could notice redness, pain, swelling, itching, sores, and discharge from the tip of the penis. These infections may result from poor hygiene or condom-less sex with a partner who has a vaginal yeast infection. Symptoms include small white patches and redness on the skin, and itchiness or burning. In most cases, topical antifungal ointments and creams can treat the infection.
Your risk of having a yeast infection is higher if you’re not circumcised, you have diabetes, or your immune system is weak. Using antibiotics for long periods can raise your risk. So can using condoms with spermicides and lubricants.
To prevent a yeast infection, keep your genitals clean, cool, and dry. Avoid products with scents and irritants. If you do get a yeast infection, you may be able to treat it with OTC creams, but it’s important to talk to a doctor first. Proper treatment can keep you from having long-term damage or other health problems.
About the author: Dan Jackowiak, Nc, HHP, Founder of Yeast Infection Advisor. Dan is a Holistic Healthcare Practitioner and Nutritional Consultant that personally suffered from yeast and bad bacterial overgrowth of the gut for most of his life. The information on his website is a combination of his own nutrition and holistic training, life experiences, collaboration with fellow experts on his team, and over 18 years of studying medical research on candida yeasts infections of all types, which has allowed him to take his life and health back help others overcome yeast-related health problems and digestive problems of all kinds.
- Morris B, Krieger J. Penile inflammatory skin disorders and the preventive role of circumcision. International Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2017;8(1):32-. https://www.ijpvmjournal.net/article.asp?issn=2008 7802;year=2017;volume=8;issue=1;spage=32;epage=32;aulast=Morris
- Jegadish N, Fernandes SD, Narasimhan M, Ramachandran R. A descriptive study of the clinical and etiological profile of balanoposthitis. J Family Med Prim Care. 2021;10(6):2265-71. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8284224/
- Carocci K, McIntosh GV. Balanitis Xerotica Obliterans. StatPearls [Internet]. 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK567770/
- Rajiah K, Veettil SK, Kumar S, Mathew EM. Study on various types of infections related to balanitis in circumcised or uncircumcised male and its causes, symptoms and management. African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 2012;6(2):74-83. https://academicjournals.org/journal/AJPP/article-abstract/E18532336414
- Demirci A, Bozlak N, Turkel S. Chronic prostatitis developing due to candida infection: A case diagnosed 20 years later and review of up-to-date literature. Urology case reports. 2018;20:88. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214442018301876?via%3Dihub
- Karso L, Bezawada B. Individualised homoeopathic treatment of Balanitis: A. www.homoeopathicjournal.com/articles/222/4-3-40-551.pdf
- Nguyen AT, Holland AJ. Balanitis xerotica obliterans: an update for clinicians. European journal of pediatrics. 2020;179(1):9-16. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00431-019-03516-3