About 138 million women worldwide - 9 million in the United States - are affected by a distressing but treatable fungal infection commonly called yeast or Candida vaginitis, or VVC, according to a new review by an international research team.
Jack D. Sobel, M.D., dean of the Wayne State University School of Medicine, joined the work of University of Manchester scientists who predicted that cases of recurrent VVC will increase to affect an estimated 158 million women by 2030.
The team published its findings in The Lancet Infectious Diseases today (July 3).
VVC infection, which is caused by the overgrowth of the fungus Candida, causes itching, irritation, discharge, soreness and damage to the skin.
Previous research has shown that 75 percent of women develop the condition at least once in their lifetime. More than 6 percent of women suffer recurrent episodes.
The study also found that the risk of developing VVC decreases in menopausal women age 55 and older, except among women taking hormone replacement therapy and antibiotics.
Chinese, Indian and American women suffer the greatest number of VVC cases, at 29.1 million, 23.6 million and 9 million affected women, respectively, the study authors found. The countries where the condition is least prevalent are Ghana, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Riina Rautemaa-Richardson, D.D.S., Ph.D., senior lecturer in Infectious Diseases and Medical Education in the Institute of Inflammation and Repair, University of Manchester, and lead author of the study, "Global burden of recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis: a systematic review," called recurrent VVC "common, debilitating and complex."
"Myths, unnecessary worry and stigma are associated with it as medical professionals struggle to understand it," she said. "Though VVC is treatable, it often reoccurs and there are often additional causes for the symptoms that all need to be addressed. Antifungal treatment is often only part of the solution."
"Recurrent VVC can be controlled with anti-yeast oral maintenance therapy," said Dr. Sobel, an infectious disease expert and one of the world's foremost authorities on yeast infections.
"VVC is often thought of as an embarrassing problem woman should accept, rather than a medical problem which needs to be dealt with," Dr. Rautemaa-Richardson said. "But for millions of women, it can have a massive impact on quality of life."
She added: "For many, VVC is treatable, and patients are able to regain their quality of life. But much work needs to be done to educate both health care professionals and patients about the best way to do that. We hope this research will give more women the confidence to talk more openly about a problem that is distressing and painful."