Q.Is it OK to treat a vaginal yeast infection with an over-the-counter product instead of seeing my doctor?
A. You need to be sure of the diagnosis before using an over-the-counter product to treat a yeast infection. While such treatments tend to work well, with a success rate of 80 to 90 percent, some women may experience recurrent infections or infections that don’t respond to the products. Also, overuse can cause yeast to develop resistance.
How do you know if you have a yeast infection? Symptoms include a red and swollen vulva that itches and burns and an odorless, white, lumpy vaginal discharge. Bacterial vaginosis, caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina, causes a darker, possibly greenish discharge with a foul odor. A sexually transmitted parasitic disease that causes similar symptoms is trichomoniasis.
Distinguishing among these conditions can be tricky. If you have been diagnosed with yeast infections before and feel confident that’s what you have, go ahead and self-treat. But if this is the first time you have had genital symptoms, or if you have pelvic pain or fever, it is a better idea to call your gynecologist.
Read more about protecting yourself from sexually transmitted diseases.