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.