Vulvovaginal candidiasis in postmenopausal women: the role of hormone replacement therapy

J Low Genit Tract Dis. 2011 Oct;15(4):263-7. doi: 10.1097/LGT.0b013e3182241f1a.


Objective: : This study aimed to explore the role of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in susceptibility to vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) in a private vulval disease referral practice.

Methods: : Between January 2009 and December 2010, 149 healthy, nondiabetic patients with vulvar conditions were compared for significant differences in vaginal swab result, age, and diagnosis between those using and not using HRT. Detailed clinical data were collected from those with VVC.

Results: : The mean ages of the HRT (n = 70) and non-HRT (n = 79) groups were 62.5 and 62.5 years, respectively. Positive cultures for Candida were found in 34 (48.5%) of 70 patients on HRT and in 2 (3%) of 79 subjects not on HRT (p < .001). Culture-positive, clinical VVC was identified in 34 (49%) of 70 patients on HRT and in 1 (1%) of 79 patients not on HRT (p < .001). Candida species (32 Candida albicans and 2 Candida glabrata) were isolated from the 34 VVC patients, and of these, 23 (67%) had a history of recurrent or chronic candidiasis before menopause. All 34 had been previously treated with antifungal therapy without ceasing HRT and had been unresponsive to treatment or had relapse after treatment. In 27 (79%) of 34 patients, HRT was suspended during treatment. Of those who remained on HRT during treatment or resumed it after treatment, prophylactic antifungal treatment was initiated in 15 (44%) to prevent recurrence. All patients responded to the antifungal treatment provided HRT was suspended or prophylactic treatment was used.

Conclusions: : Postmenopausal women taking HRT are significantly more prone to develop VVC than women who are not and those with VVC are likely to have been susceptible to it before menopause.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Candida albicans / classification
  • Candida albicans / isolation & purification
  • Candida glabrata / classification
  • Candida glabrata / isolation & purification
  • Candidiasis, Vulvovaginal / chemically induced*
  • Candidiasis, Vulvovaginal / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause*