help for chronic vaginal infections?
September 18, 2006 5:50 PM   Subscribe

Yeast? Bacterial vaginosis? Something else? It's getting chronic and I'm starting to despair. For details about girly parts, there's

first off: I will be seeing a doctor soon, but have to wait a few weeks. I also understand that most of you are not doctors. Okay, with that out of the way:

Starting about a year ago, I got a yeast infection for the first time in many years. Whether it was a function of going back on the pill, or becoming sexually active after a long dry spell, or other reasons, I don't know. The pill seemed like it might have been the culprit, though, so in addition to treating the yeast with both OTC remedies and acidophilus, I went off the pill. Then I went on the sponge, which seemed to make the problem worse. So then we settled on condoms. Things seemed better for awhile.

But flash forward a year and it's been just a constant on-again, off-again struggle with the girly parts infections (various combinations of discharge, pain, itching, odor, etc). About 2 months ago, I was diagnosed with a combo of yeast and bacterial vaginosis. I was treated simultaneously with antibiotics and antifungals. Yay! It seemed like we had finally figured it out! After treatment, I felt great.

Things were fine.... till last night, when (during sex) I noticed a lot of an extraordinary thick, white, sticky discharge - seriously, it was almost the consistency of vanilla frosting. But no odor. No pain, no itching. Just huge globs of this stuff.

Ugh, what gives? I've been sexually active since college (in my 30s now), and till last year could count the number of infections I'd had on one hand. Now it seems chronic. Am I doomed to be on the antibiotic/antifungal cycle forever now? And given the facts about how repeated antibiotic use can lead to resistance, is that wise? Are there proven alternative treatments to consider? Could the lube we use (KY "Silk") be a contributing factor?Should my partner be treated? (My gyne and my nurse practitioner both say that BV isn't sexually transmitted, so it's got nothing to do with him. But we both wonder.)

Thanks for any feedback, suggestions, moral support, etc.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
She might kill me if she knew I posted this,

but for my wife:

When she quit the pill, the yeast went away forever.
posted by 4ster at 6:09 PM on September 18, 2006

You can treat chronic yeast to at least some extent with diet. Check out The Yeast Connection.

I hope that your upcoming doctor's appointment is fruitful. Even random yeast and BV infections are no fun, recurring ones are completely sucky.
posted by padraigin at 6:11 PM on September 18, 2006

I think your partner should be treated. You could be passing it back and forth to each other - his may not have any overt symptoms.
posted by LadyBonita at 6:24 PM on September 18, 2006

Through my indirect experiences with these problems (partners with these problems) and everything I've ever read about this, you will not learn anything here useful except for people's anecdotes. You already know this, but you need to see a doctor, and be treated as an individual case. Try one doctor, and if things don't improve, get a second opinion, and a third if necessary.

There are so many variables here. Get professional help. If you can't get an appointment for the next couple weeks from one doc, why not call another in the meantime? Or a clinic maybe?

Good luck.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 6:32 PM on September 18, 2006

I found out myself that men can carry yeast infections and even have symptoms (in my case, urethral ITCHING), as well as other "minor problems" not usually thought of as "STDs". Besides re-infecting one's partner you can also carry things to another one -- a good reason for condom use especially if you're not mongamously mated for life.

Speaking of condoms, could you be allergic to latex? If so it could be irritating your innards and letting bad things in.
posted by davy at 6:49 PM on September 18, 2006

i always got yeast infections when i used condoms with spermicidal lubricant. something about it whacks things out for me. switched to normal lube, no more problems. if you're using a spermicide, i'd try another (more reliable) form of BC
posted by gilsonal at 7:23 PM on September 18, 2006

It sounds like ditching the pill has done wonders.

Yeast go nuts down there when the pH is good for them, so yes, your lube may be a problem. Silicone based lubricants generally irritate these things less, and steer clear of flavoured lubes and flavoured condoms. The sugars in them are a surefire recipe for disaster.

This isn't reading like a latex allergy to me, though. When it's the condom's fault, you know about it.
posted by Jilder at 7:36 PM on September 18, 2006

Are you drying properly after showering?
I used to get nearly monthly yeast infections (which disappeared as soon as I got my period, but would return about 2 weeks before the start of flow. My doctor suggested that perhaps I could decrease the frequency by making sure I'm a bit dryer after showering. She suggested using the "cool" setting on the hair dryer.
I don't do that anymore because as I've gotten older I don't seem to get yeast infections AT ALL (could be for a variety of reasons), but it made a HUGE difference for me at the time.
I hope I don't end up wishing I'd bought a sock puppet for this comment.
posted by nprigoda at 8:00 PM on September 18, 2006

I know a lot of women, who starting at age 30 start to have chronic yeast infections. Going to the doctor may solve your problems, but if it doesn't don't be surprised and don't despair. Diet is a huge factor and also as women age they seem to be more vunerable to this kind of stuff. You may have to think more about your ph down there (don't eat too many acidic foods) and sugar intake (dont feed the yeast). Please feel free to email me (in my profile) if you want more than general advice.
posted by zia at 8:09 PM on September 18, 2006

Lubes with glycerine will make things worse. There are some water based lubes that are also glycerine free. Sliquid, Sensua are two, I've only seen them online and haven't had the chance to try them but someone else on mefi recommended Sensua as a lube in general.

I think my girlfriends chronic yeast infection(s?) were caused primarily by glycerine lube. She is also a type I diabetic (uses insulin) which made getting rid of the infection even harder. If you think you could have developed diabetes, it might be a large part of the problem and obviously more serious.
posted by robofunk at 8:11 PM on September 18, 2006

Never had yeast infections until I hit my late twenties, then got then chronically. It did pass eventually, but I had a very frustrating year. Now I'm accustomed to a higher amount of yeast than before, but it doesn't spill over into itch territory very often. I didn't quit the pill.

What worked for me: Water-based lube only. No spermacide. Ate lots of yogurt. Drank lots of water. Took breaks to keep from getting rubbed too raw from sex, as this seemed to exacerbate things.

Other anecdotal note: I have two friends who turned out to have had chlamydia that they must have had for five months before diagnosis. (Based on gaps in sexual activity.) Both reported increase in yeast infections upon resuming of sexlife, and then eventually crampy pain during deeply penetrative sex. Sometimes they don't test for every STD if you are monogamous -- make sure they have tested you for chlamydia just in case.
posted by desuetude at 8:40 PM on September 18, 2006

Just to confirm that the discharge without itching or odour can also be yeast and that is the most likely explanation given the information you post. Some great adivce above but I would also suggest you look at possible family history of diabetes, and any weight gain recently or inexplicable thirst. chronic yeast infections can present in Hidden diabetes and your physician should rule this out.
posted by Wilder at 2:29 AM on September 19, 2006

Definitely check into the diabetes aspect. Chronic yeast infections (if that is what you have) are a symptom of diabetes in women.
posted by FergieBelle at 4:35 AM on September 19, 2006

Yeah, watch your sugar. In my experience, when I get a systemic yeast infection, diet + acidolphilus is the only thing that helps. I had this same thing when I went away to college, and stopping all sugar (even fructose), eating lots of brown rice, and drinking lots of water and yeast-stopping tea (ask your local herbalist) for two weeks was the only thing that helped.
posted by frecklefaerie at 7:03 AM on September 19, 2006

A relative of mine has chronic yeast infections that has been controlled by squirting vinegar in the affected region during showers. Vinegar kills the organism, rinses clean, and leaves one feeling fresh.

As for lube, well, read this at your own risk. It's very unconvetional thinking. A specialist (Dr. Galask at Iowa University Hospital) in vulvar disorders prescribed my wife and I lube with vegetable shortening. We have done so for years now with great success.
posted by kc0dxh at 7:13 AM on September 19, 2006

A different pill brand might help - I was on Ortho Tri-Cyclen, switched to the generic of that pill, and got terrible yeast infections that wouldn't go away. I switched back and they left.

Now I'm on Ortho Lo and have no problems either.

My favorite yeast remedy is hydrogen peroxide - wipe with a washcloth dunked in it - it will naturally eat all the yeasties.

Good luck, I know how painful this stuff is.
posted by agregoli at 7:18 AM on September 19, 2006

I believe that sometimes a thyroid condition can result in chronic yeast infection. Might be something to discuss with the doctor when you go in for your visit.
posted by penchant at 8:25 AM on September 19, 2006

Definitely get tested to find out if it is yeast or BV. And have your partner tested, as well--he may not show signs, but it is not uncommon for reinfection to occur this way.

If it is yeast, I highly recommend a nightly insertion of boric acid in a capsule. This has worked in one night for me, and I now am yeast-free, which hadn't been true in years.

Hormone levels, whether "natural" or HBC-driven definitely contribute.

Eat yogurt. Rinse with vinegar after peeing if you feel an itch. Don't wash your ho-hoo with soap.
posted by Riverine at 9:35 AM on September 19, 2006

If it's hurting like that it might be an inflammation of the cervix or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).

Both can be caused by STD's or just a natural growth of bacteria in the female reproductive organs. Both can leave you infertile.

Don't wait "a few weeks." You need to see a doctor ASAP. Go to the emergency room if you have to.

And stop having sex with your boyfriend.
posted by mynameismandab at 11:32 AM on September 19, 2006

Sorry I misread the part about the pain. But I stand by my post. It could be cervicitis or PID.
posted by mynameismandab at 11:34 AM on September 19, 2006

It is possible you might have a skin allergy. I would recommend washing your clothes, or at least your undies, in a fragrance and dye free "sensitive skin" laundry detergent, and using only plain glycerine soap to wash the area. It can't hurt.
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:41 PM on September 19, 2006

I can't really add to any of the medical advice but I did want to recommend an alternative treatment for the problem. Mix chopped garlic (fresh) with honey (unpasturized, as natural as possible) and smear it on; I usually sit over the toilet when I do this as it's very drippy and I will read a book for 15 minutes. Shower to wash it all off, dry thoroughly. You should feel relief after about 24 hours. The garlic will sting but I don't think that this is a big deal. This usually clears up the symptoms inside and out, but if you feel that the inside is still a problem, you can soak a tampon in the mixture and insert it, or douche with a watered down mixture of it. I have also had good results with honey, garlic and acidophilus yogurt, both external applications as well as the tampon soaked in the mixture.
posted by kenzi23 at 4:26 PM on September 19, 2006

Seconding the hydrogen peroxide advice. I find it works practically instantly.
posted by macinchik at 10:51 PM on September 19, 2006

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