Condom broke and I’m feeling itchy

Dear Alice,

I've just had my first condom break ever. I'm on the pill, so I'm not worried about pregnancy, but a couple of days afterwards I had yeast infection-like symptoms — no unusual discharge, just itching. If I pick up some over-the-counter yeast infection medication and the symptoms go away, would I be safe to assume that was the problem? Or should I definitely go in for an STI check?



Dear Broken, 

While itching is one of the most common symptoms of a yeast infection, getting tested for sexually transmitted infection (STI) or another vaginal ailment after a condom break may be the quickest way to curb your curiosity and safeguard your health. 

The most common STI that can also cause itching is trichomoniasis. Trichomoniasis (or trich, pronounced "trick") is caused by microscopic protozoa. Most people who get trich don't notice any symptoms, but in those who do, it usually produces large amounts of discharge. Herpes is another very common STI that can cause itching. Often, herpes begins as an itch in the vaginal area and may progress into blistery sores that tingle or burn. It’s important to note that herpes tests are typically not included in a routine STI check unless sores are visible or unless the patient asks to be tested for herpes specifically. Pubic lice may also make you want to scratch. They come in three forms: nit, nymph, and adult, and are diagnosed by looking for the little critters on your pubic hair. In the non-STI category, both yeast and bacterial infections are other common causes of vaginal itching and are often accompanied by unusual discharge, burning, and pain. 

If itching is your only symptom, it's not recommended to use yeast infection medication since the medication itself can upset the bacterial balance in your vagina. Instead, you might try wearing cotton underwear and loose-fitting pants, use mild body soap and laundry detergent, and avoid douching to see if that helps with the itching first. If your itching doesn't go away in a week or so, you might consider talking with a health care provider to get a diagnosis. 

In any case, because many STIs often don’t show up with any signs or symptoms, it's recommended to get annual screenings for things like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. If you use drugs intravenously, have more than one partner, or don’t use a new condom each time you have sex, it’s recommended that you get tested more regularly. You might also choose to encourage your partner(s) to be tested as well—you could even get tested together! If you happen to be diagnosed with something and your partner chooses not to get tested, many clinics offer expedited partner therapy (EPT) so they can receive treatment for your same diagnosis without having to get tested first. Treating both partners can help prevent the passage of certain infections back and forth. Best of luck in finding the right scratch (treatment) for that itch.  

Last updated May 19, 2023
Originally published Oct 01, 1993

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