To treat or not to treat (a potential yeast infection)?
February 17, 2006 3:42 PM   Subscribe

Should I use an OTC yeast infection treatment? I'd prefer answers from women who aren't going to scare the crap out of me with worst case scenarios...if you think you can help, check out the

Will the world end if I use an OTC yeast infection treatment even though I am not 100% positive that I have a yeast infection? The box has scary warnings not to...but I have reasons to believe it should be ok.

First and foremost, it's Presidents Day Weekend and I can't see my doctor until Tuesday at the earliest. So if I do have something else, I'm not going to postpone treatment by using the OTC stuff.

Second, I went to my gyno in late December. She said it looked like I had a little yeast and that if it didn't bother me I didn't have to do anything, but if it itched to get an OTC treatment.

I have never had a yeast infection before, and while I itched a little back around the time of my dr's appointment, it wasn't bad and I just ignored it. I've increasingly got itchier since then. I've had very little discharge and it's really no color whatsoever with no odor whatsoever.

Is it safe to assume that this is just a progression of the yeast my doctor saw in late December and that it's ok to use the OTC treatment I bought?

I'm a little nervous because I'm really anxious about health problems - if you tell me it might be cancer or rabies or bird flu, I am going to jump to the worst case scenario. So after reading on the box that a vaginal infection can cause permanent damage to your ability to have children - well, I'm freaking the hell out right now.

Would appreciate some advice!
posted by tastybrains to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If I were you, and the itchiness was copable with, I'd just wait to see my doctor on Tuesday. The reason you shouldn't use OTC stuff if you haven't been diagnosed is that stuff's very delicately biologically balanced down there, and if you're trying to treat yeast that isn't there, it can mess up the balance and cause an infection.
posted by Lotto at 3:59 PM on February 17, 2006

I am just a woman who's had a yeast infection, not a doctor.

I would just use the OTC treatment. You're not supposed to use it if you have never had a yeast infection diagnosed by a doctor, but you have, and this is probably the same one. (And next time, if you have the same symptoms, you don't need it diagnosed before treating it -- it's just the first time.) It could be bacterial vaginosis, which acts like a yeast infection but is caused by bacteria, but that is also pretty much harmless and often clears up on its own.

I am totally a hypochondriac, but I would relax and treat it. It is not a big deal, though I know the label can make it look scary.

And it's not cancer, cause I don't think you can develop those sex organ cancers in three months, assuming you had a pap test in December.
posted by Airhen at 4:02 PM on February 17, 2006

Best answer: Wow, this is the second time today I've recommended acidophilus! In the event you don't really have a yeast infection, taking a course of acidophilus won't really do any damage, whereas I'd be leery of using Monistat (or its equivalent) unless you know for sure (and even then, I'd go the natural route first before relying on the heavy-duty antifungals).

Acidophilus basically produces hydrogen peroxide, which will help rebalance the yeast/vaginal flora naturally. (Anecdotally, the last yeast infection I had, I went the acidophilus route, and I felt better a few days faster than I did the last time I used Monistat. The cost at Whole Foods for a 14-day oral/vaginal course of treatment was around $25, about the same price as Monistat.) Here Or consider some other common home remedies in the meantime.

Also, please don't worry about your fertility being compromised by a yeast infection over the course of a long weekend. I assume the label warnings are referring to chronic pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is mostly associated with STDs and/or bacterial infections, and which a yeast infection isn't going to cause.
posted by scody at 4:03 PM on February 17, 2006

If I were you, I would use the OTC stuff. Vaginas are pretty durable - a little Monistat won't kill you. (And four days is a long time to deal with the intense itching of a yeast infection.)
posted by peppermint22 at 4:17 PM on February 17, 2006

Best answer: I second the acidophilus recommendation. If I feel even the slightest bit of a yeast infection coming on, I just take one bottle of liquid acidophilus (found in the refrigerated section at my local natural foods store), and the next day I feel fine. I've never tried the capsule form, so I can't comment on those. But for the liquid kind, I'll take a couple tablespoons every other hour over the course of one day.
posted by invisible ink at 4:22 PM on February 17, 2006

This thread also has some useful advice.
posted by invisible ink at 4:27 PM on February 17, 2006

What's your--um--discharge like? A yeast infection usually presents with some very obvious physical symptoms other than itchiness, and discharge that's clumpy and thick is one of those. If your discharge is thicker and there's more of it than usual, it's probably yeast.

If you decide to go the Monistat route this weekend, I'd postpone the doctor's visit until you're done. Because once you start using it, it's going to make it very difficult for your doctor to determine if there's something other than a yeast infection going on. Maybe try the acidophilus and yogurt route until Tuesday, and then see what she says?

(Whatever you do, don't scratch, no matter how much it itches. I speak from experience.)
posted by veronica sawyer at 4:34 PM on February 17, 2006

I had homemade yoghurt, topically applied and it didn't help like the one OTC Diflucan tablet i had that cleared everything up within three days.

The cool yoghurt soothed things somewhat but was very messy.
posted by b33j at 5:18 PM on February 17, 2006

Oh and the medication I took said, if this doesn't clear up in three days, don't self-medicate any further, but get you to a doctor quickly.
posted by b33j at 5:19 PM on February 17, 2006

Another recommendation for acidophilus: capsules, acidophilus milk, yogurt, whatever. I've tried it in all forms (well, except topically) and found that it works quickly and thoroughly, and isn't nearly as much of a hassle as the OTC stuff.

Seriously, a quick trip to the health food store and you'll be feeling better in no time.
posted by stefanie at 5:24 PM on February 17, 2006

I would NOT go the monistat or similar route, just because they are soooo caustic. I've had really bad experiences with those kinds of products, and my skin isn't otherwise particularly sensitive.

I do recommend plain yogurt however. I've gotten enormous relief from symptoms like you describe (and more severe ones) with a dose of yogurt in my vagina. I've done it two ways, as recommended by my gyno: inserting a yogurt-soaked tampon and resting in the bathtub with yogurt inside and around my vulva. This page talks about some other "natural" cures. I haven't tried inserting garlic but taking the pills and/or eating tons of it (enough to drive my partner to sleep on the couch) unquestionably helps reset my internal flora in a good way.

Good luck; hope you feel better soon.
posted by olecranon at 5:28 PM on February 17, 2006

I recommend using a natural remedy until the doctor can tell you for sure. I usually just go crazy and do them all at one time - the anti-yeast pills, eating/applying yogurt and drinking cranberry juice. Drinking a lot of fluids in general might help a bit, because urine (healthy urine anyway) is supposed to have some sanitizing properties and might help you stabilize and stay clean down there.
posted by srah at 5:37 PM on February 17, 2006

also, with no discharge, itchiness could very well be something else, and you don't want to mask symptoms if your doctor might be able to help you with whatever it really is.
posted by judith at 6:00 PM on February 17, 2006

I just read (I think it was prevention magazine) that a huge number of women that self medicate for yeast infection, when tested, don't really have it. It didn't say what they did have (!).

I have used acidophilus capsules as a vaginal suppository with great sucess and fast relief. I always used the schiff brand because I think it is best, at the grocery store anyway. Some acidophilus brands seem dead to me. I also eat garlic and avoid chlorinated water if I think I might be getting an infection. That seems to help me but can't prove anything there. I haven't had an infection in many years. I think because I eat healthy and avoid refined sugar. Also I always wear cotton underwear, avoid wearing tight jeans, and go naked at home as much as possible. Or at least wearing a skirt with no underwear around the house. Hope that wasn't too much information.

*I am not a doctor.*
posted by 9000.68 at 6:03 PM on February 17, 2006

Yogurt follow-up: if you go this route, be sure it's plain, unsweetened yogurt because you don't want to give the yeasties any more sugar to feed on.

That said, while I know a lot of people who use natural remedies exclusively for yeast infections, I've never had much luck with them. For about a year I got yeast infections very frequently & used off-brand 3-day pill-type suppositories with no ill effects, often when I thought a yeast infection was coming on & wanted to nip it in the bud. In retrospect (I was 19 then) it wasn't the wisest or most healthy behavior, but I don't think it was particularly foolish, either.
posted by soviet sleepover at 6:04 PM on February 17, 2006

To build on what Judith said, if you let a yeast infection go too long you'll start to notice a marked yeast smell. As in the scent of freshly baked bread wafting from crotch-area. It's not a bad smell at all, though it'll be accompanied by unendurable itching and swollen labia due to irritation from the yeast.

Bacterial vaginosis, which often feels the same as a yeast infection is sometimes (but not always) accompanied by a "fishy" smell that healthy vaginas never have. While using OTC yeast medication can temporarily get rid of BV symptoms, one treatment won't work for the other.
posted by soviet sleepover at 6:08 PM on February 17, 2006

Best answer: I wouldn't hestitate to use some Monistat. I have found the cream irritating and the vaginal suppositories to be just fine. There was a time when you needed a script to get Monistat. Thankfully, it was made available OTC a number of years ago. And once you've had a yeast infection, you know what it is when it reoccurs. A trip to CVS solves the problem ASAP, at least for me.

I've done the yougurt and/or acidophilous thing -- before Monistat became available OTC. It didn't work well for me. But it is, of course, a matter of personal preference.

If the Monistat doesn't solve the problem, then go see your doc. If s/he thinks it's a yeast infection, they can give you pills to help. I just got done battling an underarm yeast infection. And note that men have their own special yeast problem -- jock itch. And some jock itch sprays use the exact same ingredient as Monistat.

Good luck. And don't worry.
posted by bim at 6:26 PM on February 17, 2006

My gf has a long history of yeast infections and she swears by gentian violet. It's purple and messy as hell, but it knocks it out in short order.
posted by wsg at 11:57 PM on February 17, 2006

I have had hospital and clinic nurses recommend using OTC yeast infection treatments as a preventive measure when I've been prescribed strong antibiotics, though they've specified to use the seven-day treatments rather than the one-day treatments that put all the medicine into your vagina at once. If they're safe enough for medical professionals to recommend before there's a problem, they should be fine--I am not certain whether the package warnings are because of an inherent possible danger in the drug or because it might mask or exacerbate another problem.

I find that acidophilus works for me as a preventive for antibiotic-induced yeast infections, but have never had any luck treating an existing yeast infection that way.
posted by Cricket at 12:34 AM on February 18, 2006

As a rough rule of thumb, the more you have used medical anti-fungals in the past, (especially 3-4 times in the past year) the less efficacious the natural route is. Sorry, really tired can't link to the papers about survival of the toughest beasties.
Acidophilus internally and topically, unsweetened yoghurt, is excellent if you haven't used an anti-fungal in the last 6-8 months and should always be used as the first line unless the itching is killing you, in which case use an antifungal NOW.
IANAD but Grandmother was a well respected "healer" and at one stage practically jailed for recommending yoghurt applied to the vagina. Seems the local male Gynaes were losing losts of business, (for a very good reason!) It works
posted by Wilder at 3:28 AM on February 18, 2006

I second popping a bit of plain yogurt up there - 9 times out of 10, it works for me. If the itching is still driving you crazy, step it up to Monistat.
posted by kalimac at 5:12 AM on February 18, 2006

Um, I once got the backup doctor, who painted the thing inside with gentian violet. According to the usual guy, who looked at it later, it will work, it's an old remedy, but I was unexpectedly allergic to the stuff. You don't want to know what it feels like to have a violent allergic reaction in this area on top of a yeast infection.

For the benefit of future generations who might wander into the thread, you probably want to paint a spot on your inner arm first or something if you've never been exposed to the stuff.

IANAD, and I'm not recommending it, just pointing out a potential pitfall.
posted by deep_cover at 6:14 AM on February 18, 2006

One small addendum:

If you read the "contraindications" to any drug (OTC or by script only), the list is a mile long and most people have several of the problems on any given day of the year. It is pretty much a CYA for the drug companies. Don't let it scare the bejeezus out of you. Ignore it, IMHO.

Yeast infections are a VERY common problem, particularly after a round of antibiotics or in hot summer months etc. It is a problem easily solved. The human body is pretty darn resiliant.
posted by bim at 6:37 AM on February 18, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I was originally going to go the acidophilis route, but I felt so crummy last night I just decided to throw caution to the wind & try the monistat. I hope I don't regret it. I will try & pick up some acidophilis too to see if it helps as well, and if I don't feel better by the work week I'll go see my dr right away.
posted by tastybrains at 2:45 PM on February 18, 2006

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