It’s normal to experience a range of symptoms when suffering from a yeast infection. Many of these are well-known and relatively obvious, but some symptoms might not be attributed to the infection. For instance, you could experience stomach cramping and write it off as something unrelated. But, can a yeast infection actually be the cause of your cramps?
Table of Contents
- What Is a Yeast Infection?
- Common Symptoms of a Yeast Infection
- What Causes Yeast Infections?
- Can a Yeast Infection Cause Cramping?
- What Else Could Be Causing Your Cramping?
- When Should You See a Doctor?
- Key Takeaways
What Is a Yeast Infection?
Statistics indicate that a yeast infection is the second most frequent infection of the female genital tract. The most common is a bacterial infection, which is almost the direct opposite of a yeast infection. You see, yeast infections are caused by a lack of vaginal bacteria, meaning yeast can reproduce and grow rapidly. When you have too much yeast in the vaginal tract, it will cause an infection that leads to a host of symptoms.
Yeast infections are clinically referred to as vaginal candidiasis, which is taken from the type of yeast involved: candida.
Common Symptoms of a Yeast Infection
A research review was conducted in 2017 to understand the key symptoms of a yeast infection. After reviewing many different studies and looking at various patients, it was concluded that the majority of women suffering from a yeast infection will experience the following:
- Itchiness around the vulva/vagina
- Swelling and redness around the vulva/vagina
- Soreness around the vulva, particularly when touched
- Pain during sex
- Pain when peeing
- Abnormal vaginal discharge likened to cottage cheese
These are the main signs you should look for if you are worried about having a yeast infection. When you spot them, you’re advised to talk to a medical professional as treatment is required right away.
What Causes Yeast Infections?
In truth, the main cause of all yeast infections is an overgrowth of vaginal yeast/fungus. This can happen when the yeast naturally overgrows, or it may be down to a lack of bacteria in the vagina to combat the yeast and stop it from overgrowing.
Consequently, various things can cause these conditions to arise:
- Diabetes – a study published in 2002 looked at the link between women with diabetes and yeast infection prevalence. It concluded that women had a higher chance of developing yeast infections when suffering from diabetes as the inability to metabolize glucose was seen to increase vaginal yeast levels.
- Antibiotics – some antibiotics are designed to destroy bacteria in the body. Unfortunately, this means good bacteria (like those found in the vagina) are killed along with bad bacteria. Therefore, if you take antibiotics to treat an infection, it could lead to a yeast infection as a side effect.
- High estrogen levels – if you take something that increases your estrogen levels, like a contraceptive pill, this can cause an imbalance in your vaginal flora, leading to yeast infections.
- A damaged immune system – if your immune system is damaged, then you are more likely to be at risk of a yeast infection.
Some arguments have been made that sexual intercourse causes yeast infections. However, there isn’t enough data out there, and most instances stem from a woman having unprotected sex with a man that already has a yeast infection and passes it on to her. Though there was one study that looked at oral sex and discovered that women who receive vaginal oral sex have a slightly higher chance of developing a yeast infection.
Can a Yeast Infection Cause Cramping?
Cramping isn’t one of the most obvious symptoms of a yeast infection, but it is sometimes prevalent in patients.
When you experience an infection in your vaginal tract, you are likely to be in a lot of pain and discomfort. Moreover, if the infection ends up spreading higher up the vaginal tract, the chances of stomach pain and cramping will increase. It’s important to make a note of any stomach pain or cramps and when they first start.
What Else Could Be Causing Your Cramping?
We strongly advise that you’re aware of other potential causes of your stomach cramps. There are some conditions that mimic the symptoms of a yeast infection, yet also cause cramps more frequently. It’s crucial to figure out if they might be why you’re in pain, so you can get the right treatment.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
The most common vaginal infection around is caused by a bacterial imbalance in your vagina. The symptoms are almost identical to a yeast infection, only with added abdominal pain as a more obvious symptom. A good way to differentiate between the two is by looking at your discharge. Yeast infections give you a thicker, clumpier discharge while BV makes it thinner and gray.
A few sexually transmitted infections are often mistaken for yeast infections. The most common are:
All three will cause itching, vaginal discharge, a burning sensation when you urinate, and lower abdominal pain. Please get an STI test if you have these symptoms just to rule out any of these.
Urinary tract infections are sometimes the cause of cramps in people with yeast infections. It’s possible to have a UTI and a yeast infection at the same time without knowing it. Be sure to check your urine to see if it’s cloudy or bloody. Likewise, if you need to urinate more frequently, this can be a sign of a UTI.
If you experience the symptoms of a yeast infection without discharge or a rash around your vulva, the chances are you may have a UTI instead.
When Should You See a Doctor?
Yeast infections are easy to treat, so see a doctor when you spot the symptoms of one. If you can get antifungal medication without seeing a doctor, then that will help you. However, you should definitely speak to a medical professional if cramps are present as they’re not a ‘common’ symptom of these infections.
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Yeast infections can cause cramping, though this symptom is uncommon. Patients with stomach cramps and other symptoms of yeast infections should see a doctor and have some tests administered. This helps you rule out some of the other possible conditions that might be causing the cramps. If you are positive that it’s a yeast infection, treat it right away to help everything clear up.
- Odysseas Grigoriou, Stavroula Baka, Evangelos Makrakis, Dimitrios Hassiakos, George Kapparos, Evangelia Kouskouni, Prevalence of clinical vaginal candidiasis in a university hospital and possible risk factors, European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, Volume 126, Issue 1, 2006, Pages 121-125, ISSN 0301-2115, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejogrb.2005.09.015.
- Jack D Sobel, Patient education: Vaginal yeast infection (Beyond the Basics). UpToDate. Available from: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/vaginal-yeast-infection-beyond-the-basics
- Donders, G.G.G. Lower genital tract infections in diabetic women. Curr Infect Dis Rep 4, 536–539 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11908-002-0042-y
- Kohanski, M., Dwyer, D. & Collins, J. How antibiotics kill bacteria: from targets to networks. Nat Rev Microbiol 8, 423–435 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrmicro2333
- Reed BD, Zazove P, Pierson CL, Gorenflo DW, Horrocks J. Candida transmission and sexual behaviors as risks for a repeat episode of Candida vulvovaginitis. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2003 Dec;12(10):979-89. doi: 10.1089/154099903322643901. PMID: 14709186.
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