Question for Betty.
 
If you have had recurrent yeast infections, and have tried Monistat, (which doesn't seem to have worked) is the yeast harmful to the body/immune system/vagina in any way?  Basically, what will happen if you leave a vaginal yeast infection untreated for a period of time?
 
Betty's Answer.
 
 
Thank you for your question.  The danger in not getting treated for vaginal yeast infections is that you may have incorrectly self-diagnosed the problem and could have a much more serious infection, such as a sexually transmitted infection.
Vaginal yeast infections are a common problem in women.  These infections are usually infrequent in occurrence, however, according to UpToDate, between 5 to 8 percent of women have recurrent yeast infections, defined as more than four infections per year.

It is important to see a health care provider to correctly diagnose your vaginal infection.  Symptoms of vaginal itching, irritation, and abnormal discharge may also be caused by bacteria (bacterial vaginosis), sexually transmitted infections (including trichomoniasis and herpes simplex) and dermatitis.
One study showed that only 11 percent of women accurately diagnosed their infections, and women with a previous yeast infection were accurate only 35 percent of the time.

Risk factors that increase the chances of an infection include:

1.  Antibiotics - Most antibiotics kill a wide variety of bacteria, including those that normally live in the vagina.  These vaginal "flora" help protect the vagina from an overgrowth of yeast.
2.  Hormonal contraceptives - Risk may be higher is women who use birth control methods containing estrogen (oral contraceptives, patch and vaginal ring).
3.  Contraceptive devices - Vaginal sponges, diaphragms, and IUDs may increase your risk.
4.  Weakened immune system - Certain medications or treatments (steriods, chemotherapy), or diseases (HIV), may increase your risk.
5.  Pregnancy - Vaginal discharge may become more noticeable during pregnancy.
6.  Diabetes - Women with diabetes are at increased risk, especially if their blood sugars are elevated.
7.  Sexual activity - Vaginal irritation may increase your risk, as can spermicides, scented sexual lubricants, contaminated sex toys and receptive oral sex.
8.  Chemical Irritants - Risk may increase with perfumed or deodorant soap, adhesive on minipads, bubble bath, deodorant hygiene products, douches and laundry detergents.

Most vaginal yeast infections are caused by Candida albicans, however, persistent or recurrent infections may be due to a less common species of Candida.  Vaginal cultures can identify these species, which may need different medications for treatment.

I encourage you to make an appointment with your health care provider for evaluation and treatment.