Teen-age girls need to recognize yeast infections

TOTS TO TEENS

September 06, 1994|By Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe | Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe,Special to The Sun

Q: A few days ago, my 16-year-old daughter developed a yeast infection. We went to the pharmacy and got some over-the-counter medication to treat it. Then she started having her period. Is it safe for her to use the vaginal cream during menstruation?

A: We know of no reason your daughter would have any problem using this medication during her menstrual cycle. The cream you refer to has been available for many years by prescription only and has an excellent safety profile.

You did not indicate to us how you concluded that your daughter did have a yeast infection. Typically, a young woman with such an infection will complain of vaginal discharge accompanied by intense itching inside the vagina and around the outer lips. The skin in the genital area may become quite raw and a woman may experience burning with urination (which results from urine flowing over the inflamed skin). Yeast infections often follow treatment with such broad-spectrum antibiotics as ampicillin.

However, not all teen-agers with vaginal discharge have a yeast infection. Many vaginal infections that can cause discharge and burning with urination are caused by sexually transmitted organisms. Untreated, these infections can lead to serious health consequences, including pelvic infection and infertility. Another condition that causes discharge (called bacterial vaginosis) is not sexually transmitted, but may indicate a developing pelvic infection.

In general, we believe that the first time a teen-ager develops vaginal discharge, or symptoms that are different from previous vaginal infections, she should check with a health-care provider to establish a firm diagnosis and appropriate treatment. This is especially important for teen-agers who are sexually active. Once a teen-ager can recognize the signs of a yeast infection (which often recur), she can treat subsequent infections with the available over-the-counter preparations.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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