Long before I ever contracted herpes I often fell victim to yeast infections. At first I blamed it on my active aquatic lifestyle, which included swimming and surfing. Other times I’d blame it on my diet, which, although not poor, could always be improved on. More recently I started wondering whether taking an antiviral for herpes, Acyclovir, could be promoting yeast infections the way taking an antibiotic does. But before jumping to conclusions I decided to do some research.
Much more common in women than in men, yeast infections, thrush, or whatever you want to call it (the scientific name being Candidiasis) is really an overgrowth of the Candida fungus, or yeast, in the genital area (although it can occur in the mouth, or any mucous membrane, as well). Yeast in this area is naturally kept in check by healthy bacteria. When there are not enough healthy bacteria, or there is too much yeast, an infection can occur. So it makes sense that antibiotics would promote a yeast infection, because it might kill the good bacteria that balances out the yeast. But an antiviral has no effect on the bacteria levels in the body, and thus would not stimulate yeast production in the genitals.
Ok, so I guess I can’t use Acyclovir as the scape goat for my yeast woes. My recurring yeast infections may be due to my diet, stress, or, who knows, a genetic predisposition? In any case, it appears it’s merely a coincidence that I get both recurring herpes outbreaks and yeast infections (geez, I’m a mess down there!). But why is this important? Well if you suffer from both too, then you’ll understand that sometimes it can be tricky to make a self-diagnosis. In the past I have used Monistat thinking I had a yeast infection, only to have the burning get worse and realize it was a herpes outbreak. Conversely, I’ve taken Acyclovir for a few days with no alleviation of itching. Anyone who’s had a yeast infection knows that even a few days of it is a few days too many.
Herpes outbreaks and yeast infections can often have very similar symptoms, even though they are very different problems. So let’s break down the major differences:
-Herpes is a virus, which needs a host to survive; a yeast infection is simply an overgrowth of fungus on the body.
-Herpes is generally a sexually transmitted disease; a yeast infection is not. Yeast infections can be spread via sex, but they can also occur from non-sexual activities such as sitting in a bathing suit too long, eating a lot of sugar, or anything that decreases immune function like stress and lack of sleep.
-Herpes is incurable, but can be suppressed with prescribed medication; a yeast infection is curable, and can be eradicated with the use of over-the-counter cream. (This is not to mention alternative approaches.)