Around 75% of women will experience at least one yeast infection in their lifetime. It’s an extremely common affliction with a wide range of symptoms. Many questions surround this topic, but one of the most frequently asked is whether or not a yeast infection causes pelvic pain. Is this a symptom, or a sign of something completely different?
Table of Contents
- What Is a Yeast Infection?
- Do Yeast Infections Cause Pelvic Pain?
- How Can Yeast Infections Cause Pelvic Pain?
- Is Pelvic Pain From a Yeast Infection Common?
- Could Something Else Be Causing Your Pelvic Pain?
- What Can Be Mistaken for a Yeast Infection?
- When to See a Doctor?
What Is a Yeast Infection?
A yeast infection is a fungal infection that affects the vagina. It is sometimes referred to as vaginal candidiasis, and as mentioned above it is likely to affect a large portion of women in their lifetime. In fact, a lot of women will have multiple yeast infections – but what actually causes them?
According to research, most yeast infections are caused by a type of yeast called candida albicans. Contrary to what many people believe, a yeast infection is not considered a sexually transmitted infection. This is because it isn’t something that’s passed between partners during sexual intercourse. Instead, the primary cause is excessive yeast in the vagina. All vaginas will contain some level of yeast, but it is usually balanced out with bacteria. You rely on the natural vaginal bacteria to cancel out the yeast and prevent it from overgrowing.
Unfortunately, there are times when the yeast overpowers the bacteria, leading to a yeast infection. A few common reasons for this are:
- Regular antibiotic usage
- A weak immune system
- Increased estrogen levels
Tackling the last point, there have been studies that indicated women on the contraceptive pill are more likely to harbor higher yeast levels than those that don’t. In fact, 32% of women on the pill had high levels of yeast, compared to 18% who didn’t take it.
Furthermore, there are some very strong links between diabetes and yeast infections. There’s a lot of research looking into this, with one study in 2013 concluding that diabetes mellitus is a risk factor for genital yeast infections. It’s believed that the connection is due to blood sugar levels being inadequately controlled when you suffer from diabetes.
You are also more likely to develop a yeast infection if you fall into a few bad habits. For example, not taking off wet clothing can lead to an infection as you create an environment where yeast thrives and is more likely to grow.
What Are the Symptoms of Yeast Infections?
There is a range of symptoms, with some being more prominent than others. Generally, you should be on the lookout for the following:
- Itching and general irritation around the vaginal opening or vulva
- A burning sensation when going to the toilet
- Redness and swelling around the vulva and vagina
- Abnormal or excessive vaginal discharge – typically white and clumpy, but can also be watery
- Pain during sexual intercourse or self-pleasure
According to a study from 2018, all of the above symptoms are the most common ones seen in women with yeast infections. The same study concluded that itchiness was the number one symptom that almost every patient experienced.
Do Yeast Infections Cause Pelvic Pain?
Despite not being a common symptom, yeast infections can cause pelvic pain. This is because the pain in your vagina can radiate up towards your pelvic region, particularly when left untreated or if there are complications with the infection.
How Can Yeast Infections Cause Pelvic Pain?
As touched upon above, the main issue is when a yeast infection goes untreated. This allows the yeast to continue growing, meaning the infection spreads further up the vagina. When this happens, the pain and discomfort you feel will be more towards the pelvic region. You’re also likely to experience inflammation in this area, hence the feeling of pain in your pelvis.
There’s also a slight possibility that the yeast infection could get bad enough to cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This is a more serious condition with worse symptoms that can be extremely painful. Yeast infections might cause it when untreated as they disrupt the vaginal flora and can cause bacterial issues. PID is often associated with a disruption in your vagina’s natural flora and bacteria levels, hence the link.
Is Pelvic Pain From a Yeast Infection Common?
The good news is that pelvic pain from a yeast infection is not overly common at all. Most of these infections are treated soon after they are spotted, so they don’t develop complications. As mentioned in the beginning, 75% of women have at least one yeast infection in a lifetime, and only 45% will have more than two. For a yeast infection to be considered ‘complicated’ you’d need to experience around 3 or 4 within a year alone.
In short, pelvic pain is not a common symptom of yeast infections at all.
Could Something Else Be Causing Your Pelvic Pain?
Absolutely, there are lots of issues around this area of the body that could cause pelvic pain while showing similar symptoms to yeast infections. A few of these are STIs, but others are relatively harmless and can be easily treated.
What Can Be Mistaken for a Yeast Infection?
Two of the most common issues that are mistaken for yeast infections and can cause pelvic pain are:
Both of these are sexually transmitted infections that cause symptoms similar to that of a yeast infection. Naturally, if you have recently had sexual intercourse – particularly if it is unprotected – and you see the telltale signs of a yeast infection, it’s worth doing an STI test. Especially if you get pelvic or stomach pains as they are more common in these two conditions.
Moreover, according to research from 2018, there’s a high risk of developing PID if you suffer from gonorrhea or chlamydia, which further explains why pelvic pain is a common symptom in both.
Two other things you could mistake a yeast infection for are:
- Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
- Cytolytic vaginosis (CV)
Both are bacterial infections that cause the bacteria in the vagina to overgrow – almost the opposite of what happens in a yeast infection. So, you experience the same symptoms, and if left untreated could end up with pelvic soreness.
Other Possible Causes
Aside from things that are similar to yeast infections, there are many other possible causes of pelvic pain in women:
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- General constipation or bowel problems
- Period pain
A lot of medical research has concluded that UTIs are strongly associated with pelvic pain because the infections affect the bladder, kidneys, and general pelvic area. Endometriosis is a condition where tissues of the womb develop outside of it, leading to chronic pelvic pain in some women.
Speaking of which, there has also been some studies concluding that anxiety and depression are frequently present in women with chronic pelvic pain.
When to See a Doctor?
It’s wise to see a doctor when you notice the first symptoms of a yeast infection – particularly if you have never had one before. They can prescribe you some simple treatments that will clear the infection up in no time. Also, if you experience pelvic pain, you should definitely see someone for a diagnosis to check that it isn’t something more sinister than a yeast infection.
If you’d like an online consultation to get a prescription, feel free to download the DrHouse app today and register with us.
Can a Yeast Infection Cause Lower Abdominal Pain?
A yeast infection can cause pain in the lower abdomen, especially if it is close to the vagina and bladder. However, it is not that common and could be a sign of a different condition, so you should see a doctor for a diagnosis.
What Kind of Pain Can a Yeast Infection Cause?
Yeast infections typically cause a burning sensation when urinating or soreness in the vagina during sexual intercourse. It’s also possible to feel an aching sensation around the lower abdomen and pelvic regions.
Where Is Yeast Infection Pain Location?
Commonly, yeast infection pain is located around the vaginal opening and vulva.
How Painful Should a Yeast Infection Be?
A yeast infection should not be overly painful. It should feel more like an irritation than anything particularly hard to deal with. If your infection is extremely painful, it could be a sign of a complication and you should seek medical advice right away.
Can a Yeast Infection Cause Pelvic Discomfort?
Yes, a yeast infection can cause pelvic discomfort, though this symptom is rare. If you experience the signs of a yeast infection with pelvic pain, see a doctor.
The main takeaway from this is that yeast infections rarely cause pelvic or abdominal pain. While they have the capacity to cause this type of pain, the chances are you are suffering from something else.
A good rule of thumb is to call a doctor for a diagnosis when you spot the telltale symptoms of a yeast infection. Treating the condition is easy and will prevent further complications from arising.
- Daniels J P, Khan K S. Chronic pelvic pain in women BMJ 2010; 341 :c4834 doi:10.1136/bmj.c4834
- Rosen, J.M. and Klumpp, D.J. (2014), UTI pain mechanisms. Int J Urol, 21: 26-32. https://doi.org/10.1111/iju.12309
- Joanne Reekie, Basil Donovan, Rebecca Guy, Jane S Hocking, John M Kaldor, Donna B Mak, Sallie Pearson, David Preen, Louise Stewart, James Ward, Bette Liu, Chlamydia and Reproductive Health Outcome Investigators, Risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease in Relation to Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Testing, Repeat Testing, and Positivity: A Population-Based Cohort Study, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 66, Issue 3, 1 February 2018, Pages 437–443, https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/cix769
- Jack D Sobel, Patient education: Vaginal yeast infection (Beyond the Basics), UpDoDate. Available from: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/vaginal-yeast-infection-beyond-the-basics
- Buchta V, Matula V, Kestřánek J, et al. [Is diabetes mellitus a risk factor in genital yeast infections?]. Ceska Gynekologie. 2013 Dec;78(6):537-544. PMID: 24372432.
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- Vaginal Yeast Infection, Harvard Health Publishing. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/vaginal-yeast-infection-a-to-z
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