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military personnel, self-care, vaginitis



  1. Ryan-Wenger, Nancy A.
  2. Neal, Jeremy L.
  3. Jones, Ashley S.
  4. Lowe, Nancy K.


Background: Deployed military women have an increased risk for development of vaginitis due to extreme temperatures, primitive sanitation, hygiene and laundry facilities, and unavailable or unacceptable healthcare resources. The Women in the Military Self-Diagnosis (WMSD) and treatment kit was developed as a field-expedient solution to this problem.


Objectives: The primary study aims were to evaluate the accuracy of women's self-diagnosis of vaginal symptoms and eight diagnostic algorithms and to predict potential self-medication omission and commission error rates.


Method: Participants included 546 active duty, deployable Army (43.3%) and Navy (53.6%) women with vaginal symptoms who sought healthcare at troop medical clinics on base.In the clinic lavatory, women conducted a self-diagnosis using a sterile cotton swab to obtain vaginal fluid, a FemExam(R) card to measure positive or negative pH and amines, and the investigator-developed WMSD Decision-Making Guide(C). Potential self-diagnoses were "bacterial infection" (bacterial vaginosis [BV] and/or trichomonas vaginitis [TV]), "yeast infection" (candida vaginitis [CV]), "no infection/normal," or "unclear." The Affirm VPIII(R) laboratory reference standard was used to detect clinically significant amounts of vaginal fluid DNA for organisms associated with BV, TV, and CV.


Results: Women's self-diagnostic accuracy was 56% for BV/TV and 69.2% for CV. False-positives would have led to a self-medication commission error rate of 20.3% for BV/TV and 8% for CV. Potential self-medication omission error rates due to false-negatives were 23.7% for BV/TV and 24.8% for CV. The positive predictive value of diagnostic algorithms ranged from 0% to 78.1% for BV/TV and 41.7% for CV.


Discussion: The algorithms were based on clinical diagnostic standards. The nonspecific nature of vaginal symptoms, mixed infections, and a faulty device intended to measure vaginal pH and amines explain why none of the algorithms reached the goal of 95% accuracy. The next prototype of the WMSD kit will not include nonspecific vaginal signs and symptoms in favor of recently available point-of-care devices that identify antigens or enzymes of the causative BV, TV, and CV organisms.