Yeast infections often occur in men, even though they are most common in women.Yeast infections are usually associated with women, but men aren’t safe from these infections, either.
The term “yeast infection” generally refers to a vaginal infection caused by the yeast Candida albicans, and less commonly other Candida species, including C. glabrata, C. parapsilosis, C. tropicalis, and C. krusei. (1)
But yeast infections, or candidiasis, can affect other areas of the body.
A yeast infection of the penis is called candidal (or candida) balanitis, or balanitis thrush.
The term “balanitis” refers to an infection of the glans penis, which is the head of the penis. Candida infects the glans penis more often than any other infectious agent.
If the yeast infection also affects the foreskin, it is known as candidal balanoposthitis. (4)
Prevalence of Candidal Balanitis, a Yeast Infection of the Penis
Candida yeasts are responsible for 30 to 35 percent of all cases of balanitis, according to a report published in the journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews. (4)
Other infectious sources of balanitis include streptococci and staphylococci bacteria, Herpes simplex virus and human papillomavirus, and a sexually transmitted bacterium called Mycoplasma genitalium. (5)
But candida balanitis is not well studied, so it’s unclear how many men the illness affects each year (though it’s thought to be a rare condition).
Various Candida species, most notably C. albicans, live in the gastrointestinal tract and other warm areas of the body without causing illness (they only cause issues when they’re present in large numbers). (4)
In fact, about 20 percent of women have Candida living in their vagina and don’t experience any yeast infection symptoms, according to a report published in the journal The Lancet. (1)
Candida is commonly found on the penis, with studies suggesting that 16 to 26 percent of men carry the yeast. About 37 percent of men with Candida experience no symptoms, while 27 percent of them develop balanitis, according to a study of new attendees to a clinic for sexually transmitted diseases. (6)
Causes and Risk Factors of Candidal Balanitis or Penile Yeast Infection
Unlike with vaginal yeast infections, penile yeast infections are usually sexually acquired — when a man has sex with someone who has a yeast infection.
But candidal balanitis isn’t considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD) because men can get the infection without having sex.
There are several risk factors that increase a man’s risk of getting a penile yeast infection, including:
- Antibiotics, which kill the “good” bacteria that keep Candida‘s numbers in check
- Immune-suppressing illnesses, particularly HIV
- Diabetes mellitus (aka diabetes)
Additionally, Candida yeast colonization and infection are more common among men with uncircumcised penises than men with circumcised penises (the warm, moist environment underneath the foreskin promotes yeast growth). (6)
A study published in the Journal of European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology found that candidal balanitis was strongly associated with age over 40 years and diabetes mellitus. And men older than 60 years were more likely to have Candida colonization. (7)
Hygiene may also play a role in candidal balanitis development.
Washing with perfumed shower gels and soaps can irritate the skin, potentially helping Candida multiply. (8)
Symptoms of Male Yeast Infections (Candidal Balanitis)
Common symptoms of candidal balanitis include:
- Burning and itching around the head of the penis, which worsens after having sex
- Redness and swelling
- Small, rash-like bumps called papules, which may have pus
- Pain during urination or sex
If you have candidal balanoposthitis, you may also have:
- A thick, lumpy discharge under the foreskin
- An unpleasant odor of the foreskin
- Difficulty pulling back your foreskin
Men with diabetes may experience more severe symptoms, including fluid buildup and ulceration of the penis, as well as fissuring of the foreskin.
Complications with balanitis are rare, but may include an inability to retract the foreskin, cellulitis (inflammation of connective tissue beneath the skin), and a narrowing of the urethra that makes urinating difficult. (6,9)
Treating Penile Yeast Infections (Yeast Infection in Men)
Like vaginal yeast infections, penile yeast infections are easily treated with antifungal drugs called azoles.
There are a number of over-the-counter and prescription-based topical medicines available, including:
- Lotrimin (clotrimazole)
- Monistat (miconazole)
- Spectazole (econazole)
In some cases, these drugs may be combined with hydrocortisone to reduce marked inflammation.
Importantly, topical oil-based medication cannot be used with latex condoms.
Alternatively, an oral azole medication called Diflucan (fluconazole) is effective for yeast infections.
If the topical or oral treatments don’t work, make sure to see your doctor, as you may have another kind of balanitis or an infection by a Candida species resistant to azole antifungals. (6,10)