Chlamydia vs Yeast Infection: What’s the Difference?

It can be concerning whenever something doesn’t feel right “down there.” Whether there is itching, burning, or an unusual discharge, you know something is going on, but you might not be sure what.

Chlamydia and yeast infections are two conditions that can affect the genitals, and they have many similarities regarding symptoms. Treatment between the two differs, though, making it important to know what sets these two infections apart.

Table of Contents

What Is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is one of the most commonly transmitted STIs, and it can be spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

What Is a Yeast Infection?

A yeast infection occurs when the healthy yeast that usually resides in the vagina grows out of control, throwing off the balance in the vagina.

Most yeast infections occur with an overgrowth of a type of yeast called candida, so they may also be referred to as vulvovaginal candidiasis.

What Are the Differences Between Chlamydia and a Yeast Infection?

While chlamydia and yeast infections can both affect the genitals, they are due to different pathogens and, as such, differ in terms of how they impact the body and the way in which they are treated.

Causes

Chlamydia is caused by an infection of the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium.

In comparison, a yeast infection results from an overgrowth of ordinary yeast in the vagina. This overgrowth occurs when the vaginal chemistry is thrown off, which can happen because of:

  • antibiotics
  • regular hormonal changes (e.g., menstrual cycle)
  • diabetes
  • pregnancy
  • a natural reaction to someone else’s genital chemistry
  • a weak immune system

Symptoms

Some of the most common symptoms of chlamydia include:

  • abnormal, discolored discharge from the vagina or penis
  • burning when peeing
  • pain in the rectum
  • abnormal discharge from the rectum
  • bleeding from the rectum

However, chlamydia spreads easily from person to person because it is often asymptomatic, so it is possible to have chlamydia but not have any symptoms. Additionally, some people may have a dormant form of chlamydia that does not produce symptoms until weeks after the infection was contracted.

If you engage in oral sex with someone who has chlamydia, it is possible to receive an oral infection that produces symptoms of a sore throat or cough.

If chlamydia moves into the fallopian tubes and uterus, women may experience pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which may produce the following symptoms:

  • feeling sick
  • fever
  • intense pain in the pelvic area
  • vaginal bleeding

It is crucial to seek emergency medication attention if you suspect you have PID.

If someone has a yeast infection, the most telling symptom is a thick, clumpy, and white vaginal discharge that resembles cottage cheese. This discharge does not often smell, or if it does, it is only a mild odor that is only slightly different than usual. A yeast infection may also produce a white, creamy coating in the vagina.

Additional symptoms of yeast infections include itching, burning, or redness in the vagina that gets worse the longer you have the infection. If the irritation is bad enough, some people may have a burning sensation when they urinate.

Risk Factors

For chlamydia, risk factors include:

  • not using barrier method protection (e.g., condoms) properly
  • having multiple sexual partners at one time
  • having had an STI before
  • regularly using douches on the vagina

Some of the risk factors for yeast infections include:

  • birth control
  • pregnancy
  • diabetes
  • weakened immune system
  • antibiotics

All of these factors can result in changes in vaginal chemistry.

Similar to chlamydia, having multiple sexual partners can also increase the risk of yeast infections. While for chlamydia, this is because it increases the chances of receiving the STI, with yeast infections, this risk is because the vagina can react poorly to someone else’s natural genital chemistry, which can cause yeast to overgrow. Having sex with multiple partners increases the chances of this happening.

Diagnosis

Doctors follow similar steps to diagnose both of these conditions. They will often start with a physical exam of the vulva and vagina, where the doctor will look for signs of a yeast infection or chlamydia, along with your overall health.

Your doctor may then take a swab of the vaginal or penile discharge, which is then sent to a lab and looked at under a microscope.

For chlamydia, a doctor may also use a urine or blood test to check for bacterial infection.

Treatment

Because these two conditions are due to different pathogens, their treatments will differ.

Chlamydia is treated with a course of antibiotics, typically azithromycin (Z-Pak, Zithromycin). Depending on your prescription, these antibiotics may be taken over a few days or in a single dose.

Another possible antibiotic that may be prescribed for chlamydia is doxycycline (Monodox, Oracea) which is typically taken twice a day for a week.

As for yeast infections, they are typically treated with antifungal medications found as medicated creams or suppositories over-the-counter (OTC). There is also a single dose of oral medicine, but it is only available with a doctor’s prescription.

While recovering from both of these infections, it is crucial to refrain from sexual activity, as this can spread the infection to your partner.

How Do I Know if It’s a Yeast Infection or Chlamydia?

While there are many similarities in regard to the symptoms of these two conditions, one primary identifier can help you tell the difference between them: the discharge.

Both conditions can result in abnormal discharge, but chlamydia discharge is typically green, white, or yellow, while yeast infections produce a thick, white, and clumpy discharge. So, if your discharge resembles cottage cheese, it’s a yeast infection.

Another great way to determine if it’s a yeast infection or chlamydia is to look at the health of a past sexual partner. If they had a yeast infection or were diagnosed with chlamydia, you likely have the same.

If you’re ever unsure about what type of infection you have, it is always best to discuss this with a doctor instead of taking unnecessary medication, as that can further throw off the balance in your body or cause problems with resistance in future infections.

With DrHouse, you can meet with an online doctor in 15 minutes to discuss your symptoms. They might be able to make a diagnosis and prescribe medication virtually, or they may suggest that you make a same-day in-person appointment for a physical exam. Either way, you will quickly be seen by a doctor so that you can start feeling relief.

Key Takeaways

Chlamydia and yeast infections are two conditions affecting the genitals, and while there are some similarities, they also have differences that can help distinguish between them. The greatest difference is the type of discharge produced, with chlamydia producing a white, green, or yellow discharge and yeast infections producing one that resembles cottage cheese.

Knowing which infection you have is important because treatment differs between the two. If you are ever unsure about what infection you have, an online doctor can help provide guidance.

References

DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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