Is it really a yeast infection?

For many years now, women have been able to purchase a variety of over-the-counter products to treat their yeast infections. Even though treatment is easily accessible, it seems that self-diagnosis is astoundingly inadequate. In fact, a study demonstrated that only 26% of women who consult a physician for persistent yeast infection actually suffer from this particular infection.

Yeast infections are quite common in women and are caused by a fungus called Candida. However, the symptoms that come with it, notably itchiness, are not very specific and can be attributed to many other problems such as sexually transmitted infections, inflammation, and even dry skin. Hence, women who treat themselves without getting a proper medical diagnosis end up using the wrong product. Obviously, it also means that their actual problem is not addressed.

Dr. Susan Hoffstetter, co-director of the SLUCare Vulvar and Vaginal Disease Clinic at Saint Louis University, wanted to evaluate the extent of this problem. Dr. Hoffstetter and her colleagues analysed the medical files of 150 women who had visited the clinic for the first time and had complained of suffering from persistent yeast infections. After having analysed the laboratory results, they determined that only 26% of the women actually suffered from a yeast infection.

According to Dr. Hoffstetter, overusing over-the-counter yeast infection treatments can have harmful consequences, including the fact that the actual problem remains untreated. These yeast infection treatments can actually modify the normal flora of the vagina and lead to other problems.

Typical symptoms of a yeast infection include itchiness, pain during sexual relations and urination, burning sensation in the vaginal area, and thick white discharge. A woman experiencing such symptoms for the first time should consult her physician in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Therefore, should similar symptoms resurface in the future, she will be able to self-diagnose and treat her yeast infection with an over-the-counter product. Her physician can also inform her of symptoms that may actually be indicative of other infections, for which she is required to come in for a medical visit.

Over-the-counter products are very practical because they are easily accessible, and do not require having to spend countless hours in a waiting room just to get a diagnosis. But these products are no panacea! When in doubt, speak with your pharmacist. Do not be afraid to ask questions! This health professional can help you determine if in fact visiting your physician’s office might not be the best solution for you.

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