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Attitudes and Experience of Women to Common Vaginal Infections

Johnson, Sarah R. PhD; Griffiths, Heather BSc (Hons) Biochemistry; Humberstone, Fiona J. PhD

Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease: October 2010 - Volume 14 - Issue 4 - p 287-294
doi: 10.1097/LGT.0b013e3181d85bb7
Original Articles

Objective. To determine women's experience and knowledge of the 2 most common non-sexually transmitted vaginal infections, vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) and bacterial vaginosis (BV).

Materials and Methods. An online omnibus was conducted on 6,010 women aged 16 to 55 years to determine the incidence and awareness of VVC and BV in Europe (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) and the United States, followed by an in-depth questionnaire on 1,945 women about experience and attitudes to VVC and BV.

Results. Almost all (97%) of the women who took part stated that they were aware of VVC and 44% reported having had VVC, whereas only 30% of women had heard of BV and only 9% thought they had experienced it. There was confusion between symptoms specifically related to each condition, and women thought they were caused by poor hygiene, ill health, or a sexually transmitted infection, with antibiotic use cited as a cause for VVC only. Diagnosis was generally by a health care professional, but there was also considerable self-diagnosis in countries where an over-the-counter treatment was available for VVC. Rates of reported examination and testing by the health care provider varied by country, with high rates in Germany and low rates in the United Kingdom.

Conclusions. Women seem very aware and knowledgeable about VVC, but awareness of BV is low with self-reported incidence considerably less than prevalence rates, suggesting misdiagnosis. Increased education and better diagnosis of these 2 conditions is needed to remove the stigma and taboo, especially for BV, and to ensure correct diagnosis with appropriate treatment.

Questionnaires on more than 6,000 women showed high awareness of vulvovaginal candidiasis, but not of bacterial vaginosis, with apparent confusion between the conditions.

SPD Swiss Precision Diagnostics, Bedford, UK

Reprint requests to: Sarah R. Johnson, PhD, SPD Swiss Precision Diagnostics, Stannard Way, Priory Business Park, Bedford, MK44 3UP, UK. E-mail:

Disclaimer: Inverness Medical Innovations funded this study. S.J., H.G., and F.H. are all employees of SPD Swiss Precision Diagnostics, a joint venture between Inverness Medical Innovations and Procter & Gamble, Ltd.

©2010The American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology