Objective: To correlate symptoms, signs, and risk factors with positive wet mounts or cultures for Candida albicans and to develop an algorithm to diagnose vulvovaginal candidiasis.
Methods: This cross-sectional study of 774 randomly selected women from an urban sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinic evaluated symptoms, signs, and risk factors associated with C albicans, detected by wet mount and culture, and constructed an algorithm.
Results: C albicans, recovered from 186 (24%) of the 774 women, was associated with chief complaints of vulvar pruritus or burning. Elicited symptoms were vulvar pruritus, pain or burning, and external dysuria; signs were vulvar erythema, edema, fissures, vaginal erythema, and thick, curdy vaginal discharge. Among 545 women with symptoms of either increased vaginal discharge or vulvar pruritus or burning, only 155 (28%) had positive C albicans cultures, whereas bacterial vaginosis or other sexually transmitted infections were found in 288 (53%). In multivariate analysis, risk factors for positive C albicans culture included condom use, presentation after the 14th menstrual cycle day, sexual intercourse more than four times per month, recent antibiotic use, young age, past gonococcal infection, and absence of current gonorrhea or bacterial vaginosis. A clinical algorithm based on symptoms, signs, and selective use of wet mounts and cultures would have provided prompt treatment to 150 of 167 (90%) women with vulvovaginal candidiasis while minimizing the number of cultures performed.
Conclusion: A simple algorithm using symptoms, signs, wet mounts, and selective cultures can identify 90% of women with vulvovaginal candidiasis. In this STD clinic, vulvovaginal symptoms also require assessment for bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and cervical infection.