Why Treating Yeast Infection Symptoms Won’t Cure You
Right now, I’m on a book tour for my book Whatís Up Down There? Questions Youíd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend. These days, unless youíre a celebrity, publishers donít pay for a book tour, so Iím blessed that Monistat Ė a product I’ve used and recommended for years Ė is sponsoring my tour of colleges around the United States, where Iím helping to educate young women about their bodies.
Because of this sponsorship, the Owning Pink team has said the word “Monistat” at least 1000 times in the past few months, so much so that one of the women on our team said, “If the law of attraction is true and I keep saying Monistat, do you think the Universe is gonna slap me with a yeast infection?” We all giggled when she followed her comment with “But donít worry. I’ll Candida for the team if I have to!”
Well, she didn’t get a yeast infection, but sure enough, one week before leaving for my book tour, I did! The only other yeast infection I’ve ever had happened 20 years ago, so I had to laugh at the serendipity of the timing. As a gynecologist, what did I do? Well, I got my butt over to the closest CVS and picked up an over-the-counter three day Monistat. 12 hours later — poof! As I knew they would, my symptoms resolved.
What’s a yeast infection?
Almost every woman will experience one at some point in her life because we all have yeast in the vagina. It’s normal to have a few little yeasties floating around in your vaginal flora. Usually, the good bacteria (the lactobacillus) promote vaginal health and keep the yeast at bay. But if your immune system gets weak, antibiotics kill off the good bacteria, you binge on sugar (which yeasties LOVE), or just because, you may wind up with a yeast infection.
We’ve all been there. Things are hunky-dory, then all of the sudden, you notice a bit more discharge and you start feeling a wee bit itchy down there. You assume you’ve got a yeast infection, so you go to the drug store, where you’re inundated by over-the-counter products that promise you relief from your yeast infection. You buy one anti-itch cream after another, and you feel better for a day or two. But then you wake up and BAM! You’re scratching your vajayjay so hard you’re leaving claw marks. So you slather on some more Vagisil, and for a few hours, you feel better, until you take a shower and notice that your vulva is bright red, you’re spewing a cottage-cheesy discharge, and that darned itch is back with a vengeance.
This happened to a patient of mine. Her poor vulva was beet red, the walls of her vagina were coated with this crazy thick discharge, and she drew blood from scratching so hard. She had never had a yeast infection before, so she had gone to the drug store to buy some Vagisil, which she believed would cure her yeast infection. But 48 hours later, she was 100 times worse. She spent the next two weeks fussing with over-the-counter anti-itch creams that made her feel better for a few hours, but the symptoms always returned.
Finally, her husband, who was bummed that weeks had gone by since he’d gotten lucky with his wife, convinced her to come see me. I examined her, looked at her discharge under the microscope, and sent her next door to buy some Monistat. “Monistat?” she asked. “Donít you need to prescribe something for me?” I shook my head. This was her first ever yeast infection and she hadn’t even tried Monistat yet. Most yeast infections clear right up when you treat them with an anti-fungal like Monistat. Sure, I could pull out my prescription pad and prescribe Terazol or Diflucan, but why do that when an affordable over-the-counter product is likely to do the trick without some of the risks (like the risk of liver failure, in the case of Diflucan)? I recommended that she use the Monistat, as well as take sitz baths with oatmeal to reduce the inflammation and help the itching. Two days later, her husband called me to report that his wife was cured and to thank me. He was happy to report that he’d finally gotten laid again. He now calls me “Miracle Pussy.” (*Lissa beams proudly*)
Why don’t anti-itch creams cure yeast infections?
Because you didn’t cure the root of the problem. Anti-itch creams like Vagisil aimed at helping relieve your symptoms do not cure the yeastie beasties that are causing your symptoms in the first place. Sure, they make you feel better for a while, but while you’re masking the symptoms with anti-itch creams, those yeasties are multiplying. The longer you wait to treat your infection, the more severe it can become. Next thing you know, you’re showing up in my gynecology office, looking haggard and flustered because you couldn’t catch a wink of sleep because you were too busy holding an ice pack to your cooch.
What about you, Pinkies? Any yeast infection horror stories? Have you ever come down with the yeastie itchies at the least opportune time (like, ahem, right before a book tour)?