A yeast infection is one of the most common type of vaginal infection. While they are not really dangerous or harmful, they can be miserably uncomfortable, causing itching, burning and that distinct lumpy discharge that resembles cottage cheese.
Some women are plagued by recurrent yeast infections. Fortunately, effective medications are now available at the drugstore without a prescription. So women who are in severe distress do not have to wait until they can reach their doctor to begin treatment.
The Problem With Self-Treatment
But there is a downside to such easy accessibility of these medications. Some women are misdiagnosing their condition and mistaking symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) for a yeast infection. Several STDs may show initial symptoms similar to those of yeast infections.
You treat the infection; the symptoms go away and you think your problem is solved. But the early symptoms of many STDs can be mild and short-lived. That they disappear with the treatment may be purely coincidental. Yeast infections can also occur simultaneously with STDs. Frequent intercourse, which can trigger yeast infections, may raise a woman’s risk of exposure to STDs.
The Dangers of Undetected STDs
So there is a very real risk that in self-diagnosing, STDs may be overlooked. Many of these diseases can go undetected for years until serious damage has been done — pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.
There is another reason to avoid taking drugs for a condition you may not have. The yeast organisms are beginning to develop resistance to some nonprescription antifungal medications. It is not as serious a problem as drug-resistant antibiotics, but overuse could eventually reduce the efficacy of the milder drugs, forcing women to use stronger prescription medicines with more side effects.
The Solution? Don’t Take Chances
The solution is to follow a few simple rules of thumb.
- If this is your first yeast infection, and there is the slightest, most remote chance that you may have caught an STD, see a doctor or go to a clinic and get tested.
- If you have repeat infections and you feel sure that you have not been exposed to an STD, then by all means, treat it with the drugstore products. Yeast infections also can be caused by antibiotics, menstruation, pregnancy, birth control pills or anything that disrupts the balance of organisms in the vagina. When it is clear that one of these things caused your infection, you do not need to see a doctor.
- But if you have repeat infections and you have multiple sexual partners or a nonmonogamous relationship, then getting tested for STDs is the prudent thing to do.