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Keywords:

  • Self-diagnosis;
  • decision making;
  • self-treatment;
  • over-the-counter medication;
  • vaginitis

Purpose

To review the research on women's self-treatment of vaginal symptoms, describe factors influencing this phenomenon, identify evidence-based interventions, and suggest strategies for nurse practitioners (NPs) to promote safe and effective self-treatment decisions by women.

Data sources

Research articles identified through Medline and CINAHL databases.

Conclusions

The primary factors influencing women's decisions to self-treat vaginal symptoms were personal (attitudes, beliefs, values, knowledge and experience, and emotions) and environmental (culture, social networks and norms, media, and life context).

Implications for practice

Women's self-diagnostic skills and decision making for self-treatment can be improved through education and support from NPs. The traditional office visit may not provide an opportunity to teach women appropriate self-care because many women do not access providers for advice or information. Different methods of providing information to large numbers of women through consumer publications need to be developed and evaluated.