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Yeast infections might be seen as par for the course in women, but guess what? Men CAN develop penile candidiasis as well. What do you need to know about genital yeast infections in men?

Google "yeast infection" or "genital yeast infection", and your browser will come up with an abundance of information about vulvovaginal yeast infections — that is, genital yeast infections in women. You'll quickly come across the information that genital yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of yeast species that are always present in and on the human body, typically Candida albicans. You'll also learn that yeast infections are so common in women that around 75 percent experience at least one during their lifetimes. Men, too, can get Candida yeast infections, you may read — but it's so rare that the prevalence is unclear. [1, 2

Nearly all patient information about genital yeast infections is geared toward women, and this is bound to be quite frustrating for men who think they may have a genital yeast infection and who want information about symptoms, risk factors, medical treatment, and yeast infection treatment at home. Let's try to fix that, shall we?

Most Pressing Things First: How Do You Recognize The Symptoms Of A Genital Yeast Infection In Men?

If you've developed a genital yeast infection, you may notice:

  • That your penis is sore
  • That your penis is red
  • Penile itching
  • A burning sensation
  • A skin rash
  • Scaly skin on your penis [3]

Male penile yeast infections can also cause balanitis, an inflammation of the glans of the penis, and in some cases the foreskin. This is characterized by a shiny, tight, and uncomfortable glans. [4]. Many different conditions can lead to balanitis, and if a yeast infection causes balanitis, it's called Candida balanitis.

If all that sounds rather generic to you, that's because it is. This is why it's so important for guys who notice these symptoms, or any other worrisome genital symptoms for that matter, to see a doctor for proper diagnosis rather than making a DIY diagnosis and "treating" their issue with something that may not do any good at all. 

What Causes Genital Yeast Infections In Men, And How Common Is Penile Candidiasis?

One of the rare studies focusing on male yeast infections, which encompassed just under 500 men, revealed a penile Candida colonization rate of 26.2 percent while 18 percent had Candida balanitis [5]. Another similarly sized study found that 37 percent of the men with a penile Candida colonization had symptoms, while 27 percent developed balanitis. [6]

So, what are the risk factors for male genital candidiasis?

  • Being older than 40. [5]
  • Having diabetes. [5]
  • Notably, sexual intercourse with a female partner, particularly one who has vulvovaginal candidiasis [6] — male genital candidiasis is much less frequent in gay men. [7] While genital candidiasis isn't considered a sexually transmitted disease as such, since other factors can also cause it, it can, thus, be transmitted sexually. If your partner currently has a yeast infection, it's a good idea to be tested for Candida yourself. This may prevent the back-and-forth transmission of the infection between you and your partner. 
  • Circumcised men are just three percent less likely to encounter penile yeast colonization, but are much less likely to experience symptoms. As such, being uncircumcised is a risk factor for male genital yeast infections. [8]
  • Men who also have other genital infections are more likely to develop penile candidiasis [8]
  • Some of the same factors that increase the risk of vaginal yeast infections in women can apply to men as well: recent antibiotic use, frequent condom use, poor hygiene, and an impaired immune system (seen in HIV, for instance). [9, 10]

Treating Male Genital Yeast Infections

Firstly, make sure that your doctor takes swabs and that a fungal culture is carried out before you start treatment. This ensures that you end up with the correct diagnosis, and can, therefore, access the correct treatment. While this applies to both men and women, it's particularly important in men, whose symptoms tend to be less specific. If you are indeed diagnosed with male genital candidiasis, you may be prescribed:

  • Topical antifungal agents to apply to your penis, usually clotrimazole, miconazole, or nystatin. You usually use these for a week or two.
  • Oral (systemic) antifungal agents such as fluconazole or itraconazole. Treatment may be complete after one day.
  • Corticosteroids for your balanitis. [6]

These treatments should completely clear your yeast infection up very fast.

The Bottom Line

Any man who notices that something is "off" with his penis should always see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Don't presume you have penile candidiasis and proceed to use home treatment for a yeast infection, even though antifungal medication is available over the counter, because you may be dealing with something completely different. 

If your female partner has a vaginal yeast infection, or is suffering from recurrent yeast infections, and you do not use condoms, it's always a good idea to get tested for Candida yourself. This may save both of you a lot of trouble.

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