Armpit Yeast Infection

Overview

What is an armpit yeast infection?

While you may think of a yeast infection as something that happens down below, it can actually occur all over your body, including your armpits. An armpit yeast infection, or a yeast infection of your skin, is also called candidiasis. Candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by a yeast called Candida. Yeast is a type of fungus.

Your skin naturally has many types of yeast that live on it, including Candida. In healthy people, this normally doesn’t cause any problems. But when there’s an overgrowth of Candida, it can dig beneath the surface of your skin. This can cause a rash or skin infection. Candidiasis can occur almost anywhere on the surface of your body. But it’s most commonly found in the moist, creased areas of your skin, including under your arms.

Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of armpit yeast infections?

The most common symptom of an armpit yeast infection is a bright red rash in the skin folds of your armpit. The rash may be in patches of different shapes and sizes. The rash is usually intensely itchy. You may feel a burning sensation. The area surrounding the rash may have small, pimple-like spots. You may also notice scaling and swelling.

Armpit yeast infections don’t normally cause a smell or odor. But if your yeast infection is due to a skin condition called intertrigo, you may notice a musty smell. Intertrigo is a common inflammatory skin condition. It's caused by your skin folds rubbing together, along with heat and moisture.

What causes armpit yeast infections?

A yeast called Candida causes armpit yeast infections, or candidiasis. Candida grow and thrive in moist, warm environments. Conditions that allow Candida to grow include:

  • Hot, humid weather.
  • Tight clothing.
  • Poor hygiene.
  • Infrequent undergarment changes.
  • Skin conditions such as psoriasis and intertrigo.

Yeast infections are more common in certain groups of people. This includes people who:

  • Are pregnant.
  • Have overweight/obesity.
  • Are taking antibiotics. Antibiotics kill bacteria that normally live on your body. This allows Candida to grow out of control.
  • Are receiving chemotherapy.

Yeast infections are also more common in people with weakened immune systems. This may be due to conditions like HIV/AIDs or diabetes. Or it may be due to the use of medications that suppress your immune system.

Are armpit yeast infections contagious?

Armpit yeast infections aren’t usually contagious. But people with weakened immune systems do have a greater risk of catching an infection.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is an armpit yeast infection diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will perform a physical examination. They may be able to diagnose a yeast infection by looking at the skin under your armpit. If you have a bright red rash, a yeast infection is a common diagnosis.

Your healthcare provider may want to collect a sample of the infected area for testing. They’ll use a scalpel or tongue depressor to gently scrape some of the skin from the infected area. A pathologist will examine the sample under a microscope to identify the fungus. Or the sample may be placed in a culture. A culture is a substance that allows microorganisms to grow and be identified.

Your healthcare provider may recommend testing for diabetes. The high blood sugar levels seen in people with diabetes can act as food for yeast and help it grow.

Management and Treatment

How is an armpit yeast infection treated?

Treatment for your armpit yeast infection may include an antifungal medication. Your healthcare provider may recommend an antifungal cream, ointment, powder or other solution. You can apply the antifungal directly onto the infected area of your skin. You can buy many antifungal creams and other medications over the counter. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a stronger antifungal option if necessary.

It’s important to keep your underarm area clean and dry as part of your yeast infection treatment. This can also help prevent a yeast infection from returning. Exposing your armpits to air may help. Drying powders and topical antiperspirants may help dry out your skin and prevent future infections.

In some cases, your healthcare provider may recommend an antifungal medication taken by mouth. This includes medications such as fluconazole.

Prevention

How can I prevent an armpit yeast infection?

You can prevent armpit yeast infections by keeping your underarm area clean and dry. You can also use drying powders and topical antiperspirants to prevent yeast infections.

If you have overweight/obesity, achieving a weight that's healthy for you may help prevent yeast infections in your armpits. If you have diabetes, work with your providers to maintain proper blood sugar control.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have an armpit yeast infection?

Armpit yeast infections may go away on their own by simply keeping the area clean and dry. Healthy people can easily treat underarm yeast infections with an antifungal medication.

How long does an armpit yeast infection last?

After you start antifungal treatment for your armpit yeast infection, the rash should start to clear within two weeks.

What complications can occur due to an armpit yeast infection?

Armpit yeast infections commonly return, especially if the area isn’t kept healthy and dry. In people with weakened immune systems, yeast infections are more likely to return and spread.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can babies get armpit yeast infections?

Yes, babies can get candidiasis. Candidiasis develops when the yeast Candida grows in warm, moist environments. This includes the chubby rolls of your baby’s underarms. In addition, your baby’s immune system is still new and developing. Your baby may not have enough good bacteria to prevent yeast from growing out of control.

If your baby develops an armpit yeast infection, call their healthcare provider. They can help diagnose the condition. Depending on your baby’s symptoms, they may recommend an antifungal cream or ointment to apply to the infected area.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

While an armpit yeast infection can be itchy and unpleasant, it’s easily treatable. You can prevent an armpit yeast infection by keeping your underarm area clean and dry. If you have symptoms of an armpit yeast infection, call your healthcare provider. They’ll be able to properly diagnosis your condition. And they can give you treatment options so you’ll be feeling better soon.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/29/2022.

References

  • Merck Manual. Candidiasis (Yeast Infection). (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/skin-disorders/fungal-skin-infections/candidiasis-yeast-infection) Accessed 4/29/2022.
  • National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine. Candida infection of the skin. (https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000880.htm) Accessed 4/29/2022.
  • National Organization for Rare Disorders. Candidiasis. (https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/candidiasis/) Accessed 4/29/2022.
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Candidiasis. (https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html) Accessed 4/29/2022.

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