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Are Yeast Infection Kits Worth the Money?

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If you think you are alone in the vaginal itching camp, think again. As it turns out, the burning, itching and odorous discharge trio woefully known as a yeast infection is surprisingly common. So common, in fact, that almost three-quarters of all reproductive-aged women will experience one in their lifetime (1).

Annoying as yeast infections can be, the remedy seems easier than ever now that at-home diagnosis kits are available over the counter or online.

A box of Vagisil's Screening Kit for Vaginal Infections costs just $21.49 on Walmart.com. Coupled with an over-the-counted treatment cream like Monistat-3 ($12.52 on the same site), and the entire medical work-up costs under $35.

At first this may seem like a lot to pay for an irritating itch, but when compared to what that same diagnosis would cost at a doctor's office, the savings are significant.

In a recent cost-effectiveness study looking at rapid yeast detection kits versus doctor's office work-ups, researchers at the Temple University School of Medicine found that the at-home version is almost 16-percent cheaper.

The study looked at 70 women and found that the individual cost for each woman's diagnosis was almost $83 after seeing a doctor--$50 for the doctor's fee, $8 for a wet mount test and $24 for patient costs like lost wages and transportation). And this does not include the cost of performing a culture (the gold standard test for diagnosing vaginal yeast infections).

The sensitivity of wet mount tests is pretty crummy. This means that for women who get a negative test result (about half), the cost bumps up another $23 (now $106 total) to make sure no yeast infection goes undiagnosed.

When you compare that to the $21 for the at-home version, the savings seems incredible. Before swearing off the doctor, however, it's worth pointing out that the specificity, or chance that the kit gives you a false negative, is not entirely perfect.

This means that there will still be some women who purchase the kit, keep itching (because the kit missed the infection) and then have to spend the additional money for a doctor's diagnosis. But believe it or not, even this is included in the study's estimations. Researchers still found a 16-percent drop in cost even after all these what-ifs.

If you're a Monistat-lover at heart, you might be reading this and thinking, why not just skip all the formalities and use a drugstore cream – treating a yeast infection (even if you don't really have one) never hurt anyone!

It's true that over-treatment of yeast infections is not the biggest medical concern, but along the same lines as using antibiotics for a viral cold and creating antibiotic resistance, using anti-fungals (like in Monistat) to treat non-fungal infections can lead to anti-fungal resistance.

One last thing as you ponder what that vaginal super-infection would be like: the study points out that this shouldn't be a ding against doctors, but rather a step towards possibly using these kits inside the clinic to cut costs more generally.

(1) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vaginitis/DS00255
(2) A Cost Effectiveness Analysis of Rapid Yeast Detection Kits. Surabhi, G. et al. Women's Health Issues. doi:10.1016/j.whi.2009.09.002

Add a Comment3 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I cannot believe this was written by someone calling themselves a journalist, let alone an MD. It read like a poorly adapted press release. There was no discussion of the test's methodology or that fact that it does not test for an infection, merely for a Ph level, if ph level is normal, then proceed to presume it is a yeast infection (information available in amazon.com comments). It's ph paper, that's it. Dr. Jennifer Austin needs to stop writing articles, her editor needs to start being one and "empowher.com" need not expect me to visit this site ever again.

February 5, 2012 - 11:06pm
EmpowHER Guest

Better to try to use yogurt first bfore anything else. It has good bacteria that can really help to balance the good and bad in your body. YOu can take it orally or just apply it on the affected area.

candida treatment

February 4, 2011 - 11:04am

This is a copy of part of my comment on another Empowher post on yeast infections. I am all for a home method to help women diagnose themselves rather than self treat when they may not really even have a yeast infection. But I also agree, that a woman must seek an evaluation of a GYN if her symptoms persist since no test, even a lab run one, is 100%.

Women frequently misdiagnose yeast infections that are actually not yeast infections. In fact, a study in 2002 showed that only 1/3 (33.7%) of the women who self diagnosed themselves with yeast actually had yeast. The rest had BV, trich, mixed vaginitis or no infection at all. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11864668

If you have had several yeast infections in the past and are familiar with how your own body responds to a yeast infection, you are more likely to have a more accurately diagnosis. (though the study doesn't confirm this) Not all women with yeast infections have the classic yeasty cottage cheese discharge which makes self diagnosis even harder. Over treatment with drugstore yeast medications has contributed to the increased occurrence of more resistent yeast infections making it even more difficult for women to get rid of them.

December 22, 2009 - 11:15am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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