Ugh, sad and yeasty...
July 9, 2010 5:46 PM   Subscribe

Help me deal with my emotional reactions to thrush. (NSFW)

Don't worry, YANMD and I don't expect you to be, I have seen a doctor and I've been diagnosed with vaginal thrush.

I've tried several over-the-counter and prescribed treatments, all of which work for the period of the treatment but the discharge returns within a few days. It isn't very itchy anymore, just embarrasingly white sticky stuff. I have the feeling it's a mild yet stubborn bout of yeastiness.

The problem is that it's been recurring for over a month. It's embarrassing. Each time it comes back I get very emotional and worry about it ever going away.

I'm in a relationship and the indefinite no-sex rule really upsets me. We're going on holiday and I was hoping it would be sorted by now. My SO is super-supportive and manages to make me feel unpressured without feeling unwanted, but it depresses me regardless.

I don't want to search the internet for any more tips/anecdotes/support because, frankly, they're neither helpful nor supportive. Often they're distressing tales of marriage near-breakdowns due to no sex and low self-esteem. I will definitely be eating more yoghurt, though.

So please, without scaring me any further, help me find coping strategies for the weeping and lack of sexiness in my life. If you've been in the same situation, please share.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've had this problem, and my doctor suggested not eating the yogurt, but using one of those plastic syringes and putting it into the vaginal canal. It sounds gross (and, well... it is), but it helped me. I think the idea is that it helps replace the bacteria with healthy stuff, after the antibiotics clear it all out.
posted by torisaur at 5:55 PM on July 9, 2010

Oh, wrt to your feelings about it... I don't have a big strategy, other than reminding myself that it's not that big of a deal. There's nothing you're doing wrong, it doesn't mean you're dirty in any way... it's not your fault, in other words. It's not clear if you're abstaining because sex is physically uncomfortable, or because your partner doesn't want to or because you just feel you shouldn't. If you use a condom (or a dental dam, if your partner is female), your partner is protected; you can still have sexy time.
posted by torisaur at 5:59 PM on July 9, 2010

There are plenty of issues which could be causing the recurrences. Something in the water in which you shower/bathe, a weird reaction to laundry soap, medications you might be taking, hormonal birth control, food allergies/intolerances, even diabetes. It's not your fault. Yeah, it's gross as hell, and incredibly fucking annoying. I had chronic infections for years and years (not constantly, just recurrently) with no apparent cause, and no amount of diet or lifestyle changes had any effect at all. Eventually, they kind of just went away on their own.

Anyway, one thing that did help when stubborn ones wouldn't fuck off after repeated applications of messy medication was taking a loading dose of Sporanox tablets (200mg 2x/day for 3 days, and then 200mg a day for the rest of the week); it's an incredibly powerful post-surgical antifungal for systemic infections. It's bad for your liver if you end up taking it too regularly, and can make you constipated as hell, but it will kick a yeast infection's ass like whoa.

(Having sex using a condom when you have a yeast infection is a terrible idea. It will only irritate you further. I have, in the past, bled badly from this. Having sex without a condom when you have a yeast infection is also a terrible idea, not just for irritation, but for unsafesexness, and the probability of infecting your partner as well.)
posted by elizardbits at 6:24 PM on July 9, 2010

Have you gone back to the doctor again? I would consider this his/her problem, to deal with resistant forms of the Candida. Why, if the treatments haven't worked, would it now be in your hands? that makes no sense to me. The opposite conclusion (that you need additional medical help) seems to make more sense, doesn't it?

Have you taken oral medication (e.g. flucazanole) or just intravaginal? tourisaur, I'm not clear why you took antibiotics for a yeast infection. Yeast infections (candida = thrush = yeast) are treated with antifungals, not antibiotics, right? Although sometimes you can have a mixture of candida and excessive bacteria at the same time.

I'm not a doctor but I've experienced what you're going through and it's very annoying but eventually it worked itself out (with persistance). (I recall a regimen of flucozanole plus the antibiotic "Metrogel" to kill all the excess bacteria AND yeast).

BUT I am not a doctor, just a formerly itchy laywoman.
posted by DMelanogaster at 6:27 PM on July 9, 2010

I've found that infections - bacterial and yeast - can have a Totally Disproportionate affect on mood. Not only is there the ickiness and the self-esteem, but your body is struggling to fight an infection. When it goes away, it's like a Cloud has lifted. So give yourself a break, this stuff is Really Hard.

I agree with folks that the oral antifungals work way better, and that going back to the doctor (or at least calling) make sense - I've had yeast infections turn to bacterial infections, and have sometimes needed more than one course of antifungals.

I now also don't just eat yogurt and kombucha and kefir (have I mentioned the trauma sticks with you?) but also take a probiotic pill daily - you can find acidophilus and other probiotics at any health food store or Whole Foods. They're pricey, but they'll help your floral get back into balance - they're just the normal healthy stuff that usually help with digestion, etc.

Lastly, know that you're not alone, it is almost certainly going to get solved, and you can go back to feeling like yourself, having sexytimes... and providing empathetic advice to the other sufferers you meet.
posted by ldthomps at 6:43 PM on July 9, 2010

Since I don't know whether you've been to the doctor more than once, or how thorough your doctor has been, I'll just relate my own story.

When I was in college, I had this almost constant "yeast infection" for nearly a year. I went to the local free clinic because I was poor. The nurse practitioner would look, say "yup, yeast" and give me the cream & syringe. Eventually, I broke down in tears when I was home visiting my mom. She took me to her regular gyno who actually did a thorough exam. I was told that besides yeast, I also had Candida and some other disgusting sounding thing that I can't remember. Apparently, I had been on entirely the wrong medication the whole time. I was given a new cream as well as a pill (diflucan? maybe?) and I was clear for good in a week.

Anyway, DMelanogaster is right: keep going back to the doctor, or get a new doctor. I know how terrible this is to live with, and you don't have to figure it out on your own. I'll really hope you get it resolved soon.
posted by SamanthaK at 7:05 PM on July 9, 2010

Oh you poor thing, your emotional reaction is not the problem here! Please, please do not beat yourself up over being sad about this! The problem is that damned infection.

I agree with everyone else - get a second opinion, and a third and fourth if it proves necessary. The symptoms you are experiencing are Not Normal. You need to do a bit of doctor shopping, find a specialist, and become an aggressive advocate for your own health.

Forget about the internet, all it's going to give you are old wive's tales, bizarre cures (I'm sure you've heard about garlic-on-a-string and gentian violet already), crackpot theories, and horror stories.

And try not to pathologize your feelings - being sad is a pretty normal reaction to the situation you're in!
posted by ErikaB at 7:22 PM on July 9, 2010

SamanthaK, Candida is yeast. Candida is just the fancy name for the specific fungus that causes typical yeast infections.
Maybe you also had trichomonas or bacterial vaginosis or something.

anon, I'm a doctor, but I think the best advice for you is just to remember that this, too, shall pass. It's only been a few weeks. People do, not uncommonly, have tricky yeast infections that last this long. Once you get the right combination of therapies (and at this point I know I'd be bathing in yogurt as well as eating it for every meal if I thought it would get me back to normal), you'll be yourself again and have plenty of sexy good times. I second the vote for Diflucan. Sometimes it can take multiple doses of Diflucan or other treatments to clear these things up for good. Sometimes you just need to break the cycle by doing every anti-yeast thing you can think of at once (wearing cotton underwear and the most flowy, airy bottomwear possible while taking Diflucan, eating yogurt, taking probiotics, and putting yogurt in the affected area, all while crossing your fingers and saying a prayer!)

The bottom line is you need to get back to your doctor and get re-checked to see if you too, like SamanthaK, could also have something like BV complicating the picture, or what else can be done for possible resistant yeast. Until then, partake in all the sexy activities that don't involve your partner in the affected area that you can. Do you have a vibrator?? If not, now is totally the time to get one! Then you've got tons of fun possibilities to try until the symptoms go away.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:23 PM on July 9, 2010

I had recurrent thrush that would clear up and then return a few days after treatment. I was a poor student at the time and seeing NPs at a clinic, one of whom gave me a prescription for diflucan with more refills than I knew what to do with. I made my boyfriend take one of them. The thrush cleared up.

Also: mutual masturbation.
posted by telegraph at 7:25 PM on July 9, 2010

I really understand where you're coming from - for the last year and a half, I get recurrent yeast infections .. every .. month .. every .. month ...

Anyway, about the sex. yeah, the itching, burning, pain, etc, are all miserable. And I know you're not supposed to have sex while you're treating a yeast infection. That aside, I do it!

+make sure your lube doesn't have any weird glycerin or sugar (!!) in it. also, when using water-based lube, as the water evaporates, i find that can be irritating as it gets stickier - so add water, or use a non-water-based lube for fooling around. be careful with the skin down there around your labia.

+how's your pain/inflammation/etc? Even with the discharge or drippiness, I realized that with a YI, I actually feel really dried out down there. Counterintuitively, having sexy-time meant using more lube, not less. Also, I started rinsing off my private parts periodically throughout the day and then using calendula oil on/around the vulva to help with some of the inflammation/cracking. I find this really helpful, and it makes me feel a lot less grody. wash your hands before you do this.

+I really struggle with feeling like a gross leper every month. I really understand. I've been really lucky to have some awesome partners while I've been dealing with this every month. One of the most perceptive things my partner said to me - "do you not want to fool around, or is it that you think i don't want to fool around with you?" kudos that you have a supportive partner!

+yeah, mutual masturbation is a good option. :) I guess I just recommend trying to experiment with what you feel capable or desirous of doing for sex while you've got the infection going on. Sometimes if I'm particularly itchy, getting aroused and stimulated can make the itching go away .. sometimes my body says "oh hell no no no go" and yep, I gotta stop and do something else. pay attention to your body.

Try to follow up more with the doctors. I understand. I've gotten the "obviously you're doing something wrong since you get these infections all the time" spiel so many times from doctors. There are strains of candida resistant to miconazole/terconazole (sp?), maybe you could see if you can get your discharge tested?

One of the ways I've tried to tackle feeling so unhappy and disgruntled about this is trying as many alternative remedies as I could -- changing my diet, garlic cloves, tea tree oil, boric acid, hydrogen peroxide, apple cider vinegar, yogurt -- even though some of it has helped and some of it really hasn't, it's helped me feel a lot more ownership over my girly parts and my body, and really helped me feel less like I'm just constantly defective down there. YMMV.
posted by circle_b at 9:47 PM on July 9, 2010

One thing I was surprised to learn was that the male person was re-introducing the candida over and over and over, because they weren't the ones being treated.

So, other than accepting that this isn't a failing on your part and WILL clear up (eventually), perhaps also encourage the Mr. to be treated as well?

Cutting sugars out (or at least way down) and keeping airflow maximised helps soooooo much, so if those aren't things you're doing already, give them a go.

Poor dear. What an annoying and frustrating thing to be tormented by!
posted by batmonkey at 10:03 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Diflucan. For both of you.
And they lived happily ever after.
posted by uauage at 12:36 AM on July 10, 2010

Oh, and get Plain yogurt, and make it a kind that seems fresh and like it might still have live cultures in it. No "lite berry cobbler creamsicle delite" type yogurts, at least anywhere other than your mouth!
posted by ldthomps at 3:57 AM on July 10, 2010

There are plenty of sexual activities that don't involve penetration. Take the opportunity to expand your horizons from your usual partnered and solo sex.

It seems likely your untreated partner could be re-introducing the thrush. As others have said, both of you should be treated.
posted by thatdawnperson at 7:49 AM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lots of good suggestions here. About 5 years ago, I had a really stubborn YI that wouldn't go all the way away for a full year. It was really horrible. I found that the following things aggravated it:

- Eating sugary foods
- Using any kind of lubricant whatsoever
- Using any kind of condoms whatsoever
- Being on hormonal birth control
- Not exercising

In the end, the only thing that eradicated the hell-yeast was a combination attack: diflucan treatments + cutting all the unrefined grains and most of the added sugars out of my diet + probiotics + radically altering my birth control choices (abstinence until the evil yeast disappeared, followed by getting an IUD) + exercising. In the last couple years, I have gradually been experimenting with adding certain things that I really want to be able to have again (ice cream, lube), and I've been OK ever since. So hang in there and it'll be OK in the end.
posted by kataclysm at 4:07 PM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some things to try: Get new, cotton underwear. Start using a laundry soap for sensitive skin. Change the type and/or brand of menstrual products you use (tampons or scratchy pads can cause little tears for things to grow in).

Your SO probably needs to be treated too -- he could be asymptomatic but still have it and pass it back to you.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:28 AM on July 11, 2010

Oh and sleep naked or at least pantyless to let things air out overnight.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:30 AM on July 11, 2010

I had a recurring yeast infection for months and nothing would get rid of it; I'd take medicine for thrush, my symptoms would clear up, and then the next month they would be back. I also tried every other supposed remedy I could find (yogurt, garlic, having my partner take oral medication, etc). Nothing helped. It's incredibly miserable and distressing and out of desperation I finally resorted to changing the soap I use around the vaginal area. This was a few months ago and I haven't had any symptoms since then. I also shave daily, though, so if you don't do this it might not be a factor for you, but this is what helped me.
posted by Polychrome at 2:51 AM on July 12, 2010

I suffer from candida and I've found that taking probiotics and an otc antifungal called yeastgaurd helps. Also I sleep naked and that seems to help. It sounds to me that a change in your eating habits and perhaps some creative lubrication (why not try yogurt? it would lubricate AND kill the fungus) might make a big difference. Go commando whenever possible.

Good luck. I also periodically take fluconazole (about once a season) to treat the rash I get on my chest. It's just one pill and then one a week later and works like a charm.
posted by wild like kudzu at 11:15 PM on July 18, 2010

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