“As soon as they experience any itching and discharge, most women assume it’s a yeast infection and apply an over-the-counter anti-fungal cream, but that’s not always the cause,” says Mary Peterson, MD, director of the Midlife Health Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Magee-Women’s Hospital. Although yeast infections are common — nearly 75 percent of women have at least one in their lifetime — they are only one of three common vaginal infections. Bacterial vaginosis (BV), caused by an overgrowth of the bacteria in the vagina, and trichomoniasis (trich), a sexually transmitted infection, are the other two. Both vaginosis and trich can cause symptoms similar to those of yeast infections, which is why it’s so important to make sure it’s really a yeast infection. If left untreated, BV can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, and both BV and trich can make you more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases. “If you’ve had lots of yeast infections and this seems to be exactly the same, you can probably get away with treating yourself,” Dr. Peterson says. However, if symptoms are slightly different or you’re just not sure, check with your doctor. Yeast infections, vaginosis, and trich are all easily treated. An over-the-counter or prescription anti-fungal cream or prescription pill will treat yeast; prescription antibiotics are needed for BV or trich.
Last Updated: 05/06/2011