Sexually Related Conditions

There are some conditions that are not always spread through sexual contact but still affect the sexual organs, especially in women. In some cases it is not clear what causes the infection, but all of them can be treated.

Candidiasis (yeast infection, monilia)

Candidiasis is a common problem if the body grows too much yeast. Yeast is part of the normal balance in the vagina, penis and anal area. When the normal bacteria that keep yeast under control are out of balance, too many yeast cells grow. This is called overgrowth or more frequently a “yeast infection.”

Yeast infections are not usually spread through sex. Antibiotic medicines can upset the normal balance in the vagina and cause yeast overgrowth. Hormone changes during pregnancy, use of birth control pills and menstruation can also cause yeast to grow.

It is not known if vaginal douches, perfumes, soaps, non-cotton or tight clothing affect the vaginal balance. Avoiding them can help decrease pain or discomfort during a yeast infection.

Signs and Symptoms

There is often a discharge that looks like cottage cheese. Itching, redness and burning are common, especially during urination. Sex may feel painful or dry. Males with candidiasis may experience an itchy rash on the penis.

Testing for Candidiasis

Usually the doctor can tell by examining the vagina, but the vaginal discharge can be tested. Because some STDs can look like a yeast infection, it is important to be tested for them at the same time.


Getting the yeast and bacteria back into balance can be difficult. You should not buy yeast treatments from the drugstore without first having a check-up with your doctor. Some other problem may be causing the yeast infection and you should work together to find a treatment plan that is right for you. Other diseases are usually treated before the yeast overgrowth is treated. You might have to treat it more than once.

Treatment can be oral (pills) or a medicine that is placed in the vagina. Some yeast creams are oil-based and can weaken condoms or diaphragms.

Male partners of women with yeast infections are not usually treated but they should be checked for STDs.

Bacterial Vaginosis (“BV” or gardnerella)

BV is a very common vaginal infection. It is caused by an imbalance between the “good” and “bad” bacteria that normally live in the vagina. It is not clear how women get vaginosis, but it is unusual for a woman who has never had sex to get it. It can be caused by taking medicines like antibiotics that kill both good and bad bacteria.

There is a relationship between BV and low birth-weight babies. The bacteria that cause vaginosis are sometimes found in the uterus and tubes of women with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), but it is not known if vaginosis is a cause of PID.

Signs and Symptoms

Women with vaginosis may have a vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor. If there is discharge, it is usually white or gray. Some women report a strong fish-like odor, especially after sex. Women with BV may also have burning during urination or itching around the outside of the vagina, or both. Some women with BV report no signs or symptoms at all.

Testing for BV

The doctor will look at the vagina for signs of BV and do tests on a sample of vaginal fluid to look for bacteria.


The doctor will prescribe an antibiotic. Although BV will sometimes clear up without treatment, all women with symptoms of BV should be treated to avoid problems, such as PID. Male partners generally do not need to be treated. All pregnant women who have symptoms of BV should be checked and treated.