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STD vs. yeast infection: 4 differences in symptoms

Medically reviewed on September 28, 2022 by Karen Jansen, MS, MD. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and yeast infections have plenty in common. With a range of similar symptoms, it’s understandable why many people have difficulties telling them apart.

However, recognizing one or the other is essential, as that knowledge can inform your next steps. STDs and yeast infections can worsen if left untreated, so it’s worth learning to distinguish one from the other.

To that end, we’re taking you through an STD vs. yeast infection comparison, touching on the symptoms and causes that can help you differentiate them.

What is an STD?

A sexually transmitted disease (STD) or sexually transmitted infection (STI) is an infection that passes through sexual contact. When a person is infected with a parasite, virus, or strain of bacteria that causes an STD, they can give it to another person during oral, vaginal, or anal sex. The infection can also pass during intimate contact like kissing or touching. What happens if you have an STD while pregnant? An STI can pass from mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.

Some STIs show no symptoms for weeks or months. Syphilis, for example, can lie dormant in the body for years without showing symptoms. [1] Other STIs cause only mild symptoms. Therefore, it is possible to be infected with an STD, and be contagious, and not be aware. This is why sexual health testing is so important.

It’s worth noting there are more than 30 types of STDs. Some of the most common are[12]:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Genital Herpes
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
  • HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
  • Pubic lice
  • Syphilis
  • Trichomoniasis

What is the most common STD in the United States? The most common is HPV. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 2 in 5 people ages 15 to 59 years will have HPV.[2]

What is a yeast infection?

Yeast is a fungus that grows naturally in small amounts on the skin, inside the digestive tract, and in the vaginal area. In most cases, this fungus is entirely harmless. However, a yeast infection (also known as candidiasis), can occur when the yeast grows and multiplies out of control.

Yeast grows best in warm, moist places. As such, yeast infections may develop in several of the same areas of the body where STDs can occur, such as:

  • Between skin folds
  • The mouth (thrush)
  • The corners of the mouth (angular cheilitis)
  • The navel
  • The vagina (yeast vaginitis)
  • The nail beds
  • The penis

Yeast infections that occur in the same places as STDs—the mouth, vagina, and penis—are the infections most often confused with STIs.

Symptoms that STDs and yeast infections have in common

It’s no wonder that many people are unsure if they have a yeast infection or an STD—both have many similar symptoms. These include: [3,4]

  • Itchiness
  • Irritation
  • Redness
  • Discharge
  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Pain or discomfort during sex

If you notice one or more of these symptoms, you may have a yeast infection, an STD, or another medical problem. With that said, you can look at other hints to form a clearer picture.

4 differences in symptoms between STDs and yeast infections

Although STDs and yeast infections share several symptoms, some signs point to only one of these health conditions. Understanding which symptoms are indicators of infection can help you determine whether you should take a test, see a healthcare provider, or visit a pharmacy.

With that in mind, let’s look at some symptoms that differ between yeast infections and STDs.

1. Sores or blisters

One telltale difference between an STD and a yeast infection is an STD may develop sores, warts, or blisters. Yeast infections of the mouth, vagina, or penis will not cause visible sores. For example:

  • Genital Herpes – The most apparent sign of herpes is the outbreak of a cluster of small blisters, over tender, red skin, on or near the genitals, rectum, or inner thighs.
  • Syphilis – Syphilis usually begins as a single painless sore (called a chancre) on the genitals, anus, or—more uncommonly—the mouth.
  • HPV – HPV may cause warts to appear on the mouth, throat, genitals, or anus.[5]

2. Abnormal discharge

Both yeast infections and various STDs can trigger abnormal discharge from the genitals, but the color, appearance, and odor of the vaginal discharge can differ.

In the case of a vaginal yeast infection, vaginal discharge is usually thin and watery or thick, white, and odor-free.[6] One factor to pay attention to is texture—the discharge from a yeast infection is often referred to as “cottage cheese-like.”

As for STDs, the discharge may differ depending on the STD. For example, gonorrhea can cause the penis to emit a cloudy white or yellow discharge.[7] It can also lead to discharge from the rectum (which is not a symptom of a yeast infection). With trichomoniasis, the discharge is more likely to be foamy, gray-green or yellow in color, and fishy in odor.[8] The discharge that may accompany a Chlamydia infection may also have a strong, unpleasant odor.

3. Cuts, cracks, or tears

You're likely dealing with a yeast infection if you notice small tears or cracks over red skin around your vagina or penis.[6] Because the skin on these parts of the body is soft and sensitive, the irritative nature of a yeast infection can cause paper-cut-like markings on the affected areas. Similarly, cracks or cuts at the corners of the mouth often indicate an oral yeast infection.

STDs aren’t known to cause tiny cuts or cracks on the skin’s surface. While the itchiness caused by many STDs can encourage scratching and lead to an irritated genital area, tearing and cracking are uncommon.

4. Pain

Although yeast infections can be itchy and uncomfortable, they don’t tend to cause pain beyond the affected area. Having intercourse or peeing during a yeast infection may trigger a local “burning” sensation, but in general, a yeast infection does not cause pain elsewhere.

On the other hand, some STDs cause pain and tenderness in other areas of the body. Examples include:

  • Genital Herpes – The onset of genital herpes infection may include flu-like symptoms such as headaches and muscle aches.
  • Chlamydia – When chlamydia spreads, it can cause pain in the lower abdomen or testicles.[9]
  • Syphilis – Secondary-stage syphilis can lead to headaches and muscle pain, while syphilis that spreads to the eyes (ocular syphilis) can cause eye pain.[10]

5. Fever

When you start to experience multiple symptoms, it can be challenging to determine the root cause. However, one clue that can help you rule out a yeast infection is a fever.

Most yeast infections are considered “uncomplicated.” Because these infections are mild to moderate, they rarely come with a fever. The only exception is an “invasive” yeast infection. This severe form of yeast infection can lead to a fever; if you experience some of the telltale signs of a yeast infection along with a fever, consider contacting your medical provider right away.

A fever is much more likely to point to an STD. Fever is a well-known symptom of severe cases of:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • HIV
  • Secondary stage syphilis

Ultimately, if you experience a sustained fever, consult a healthcare provider—regardless of any other symptoms you may have.

STD vs. yeast infection: comparing causes

Another way to determine if you have a yeast infection or an STD is to consider the cause. While it is often impossible to trace an infection back to its beginning, you may be able to make an educated guess at the cause of your symptoms by thinking about your activity over the past few weeks or months.

Potential causes of STDs

The most common cause of STDs is unprotected sex. While condoms are not 100% effective, they can reduce the risk of spreading and catching STDs through sexual contact.

However, STDs don’t always pass from person to person during sex. Some STIs, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV, are also bloodborne, meaning they can spread by entering the bloodstream. As such, sharing syringes, body piercing equipment, or tattooing devices can occasionally lead to a sexually transmitted disease.

Potential causes of yeast infections

Some of the possible causes of yeast infections include:

  • Recent antibiotic use – Yeast infections occur commonly in people who have taken antibiotics. As the antibiotic kills the offending bacteria, yeast may overgrow.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes – Increases in blood sugar level are associated with an increased risk of yeast infection.
  • Changes in hormones – If you’re pregnant or taking hormonal contraceptives (birth control), you may be more likely to experience a vaginal yeast infection.
  • Not allowing the body to dry off – Because yeast thrives in warm, moist environments, wearing wet swimsuits or sitting in a hot tub for long periods can increase your chances of developing a yeast infection.
  • A weakened immune system – Your immune system keeps fungi like yeast in check. When your immune system is altered due to chemotherapy, steroid medications, or a different infection, yeast infections become more likely.

Find out if it’s a yeast infection or an STD with Everlywell

Even when you know all the differences between yeast infections and STDs, it’s not always easy to determine what’s causing your symptoms—especially if those symptoms are causing you any stress.

For the peace of mind that comes with certainty, consider taking a confidential at-home STD test. When you take an Everlywell test, you can find out if it’s one of six common STDs or not within days of testing—no trip to the clinic required. We mail you a discreetly packaged sexual health test, and you send your sample back to our lab. You can also check for individual STIs with tests such as the trich test, Syphilis Test, and Hepatitis C Test.

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  1. Syphilis. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published September 25, 2021. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  2. HPV and Men – Fact Sheet. CDC. URL. Accessed September 30, 2022.
  3. Yeast infections. MedlinePlus. URL. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  4. Sexually transmitted diseases | STD | venereal disease. MedlinePlus. URL. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  5. Common STD symptoms. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published May 5, 2022. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  6. Yeast infection (vaginal). Mayo Clinic. URL. Published March 17, 2021. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  7. Gonorrhea | the clap. MedlinePlus. URL. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  8. Trichomoniasis | trich | STD. MedlinePlus. URL. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  9. Chlamydia infections | chlamydia | chlamydia symptoms. MedlinePlus. URL. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  10. STD facts - syphilis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published February 10, 2022. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  11. Yeast infection on face or lips: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis & treatment. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  12. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). World Health Organization. URL. Accessed October 10, 2022.
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