Women who have frequent or recurring vaginal yeast infections may need more extensive treatment than many currently get, according to experts.
Longer periods of treatment may be necessary to completely eliminate the infection, say researchers from University of Leeds in the UK, led by Maureen T. Reynolds, MD, of the university’s department of genito-urinary medicine. They followed 48 women for 12 weeks to see what worked to clear up the infection, and, if nothing worked, what was going on.
Twenty-two women were initially helped by therapy, but infections returned again before the study was completed. Since the researchers tracked the genetic makeup of the infections, they were able to pinpoint that in 17 of the women, the second infection was actually caused by the same strain that had caused the first.
“Our findings support the ‘vaginal relapse’ hypothesis,” they write, “and have important implications for the treatment of women with recurrent symptoms.”
Longer courses of antifungal treatment than what most women receive, as well as continual preventive therapy, may be the key for women prone to recurrent infections, the researchers write in the June issue of the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.
Since yeast infection treatments are now offered over-the-counter, many women don’t know that these preparations only treat about 80% of infections, and that their doctor can offer a variety of other treatments, says M.J. Bovo, MD, a gynecologist in private practice in New York City.
There are a lot of reasons why infections happen, and often it is because of a disruption in the delicate balance that keeps the vagina healthy, she says. Some medications, like antibiotics, can cause infections, as well as travel (airplanes as well as climate changes can prompt infections in some women).
Allergies to either latex or the spermicides in lubricated condoms can also cause mild to severe irritation or inflammation, which makes it easier for infection to develop. “Once you have that inflammation there, you’ve set up a yeast infection,” Bovo says.
Another often-overlooked source of recurring infection is the woman’s partner. Men can carry yeast infections with few or no symptoms, and can reintroduce the infection to their partner through sex.
Avoiding intercourse during the woman’s treatment is important, Bovo says, and it is also a good idea for men with infection-prone partners to thoroughly clean their penis with a good antibacterial soap.
The first time a woman suspects she has a yeast infection, she should visit the doctor to make sure it actually is a yeast infection. Bovo recommends that first-time infections be treated for at least seven days to make sure it is eliminated.
The same goes for infections that don’t go away after over-the-counter treatment. “If you do get a recurrence, you have to go to the doctor,” Bovo says. Bovo suspects that some women treat themselves because they are worried about the cost of an office visit. If that’s the case, she says to make sure and call the doctor–maybe it can even be diagnosed over the phone, she says.
Another reason to seek professional treatment, she says, is because it may not be a yeast infection at all. Other infections may not respond to yeast infection treatments.
Article By: Erin King, Medical Writer