How Vaginal Yeast Infection Is Treated

A vaginal yeast infection is a common and uncomfortable problem that many women will experience at least once. It can usually be effectively treated with an over-the-counter (OTC) product, but the symptoms can be caused by other conditions, so you need to get a diagnosis from your healthcare provider. Depending on your preference, or factors such as the severity or frequency of your yeast infection, your healthcare provider may prescribe an oral medication for you, There are many lifestyle changes you can make to help your infection clear and prevent a recurrence.

Yeast infection causes and risk factors
Verywell / Emily Roberts

Over-the-Counter Therapies

The OTC products available for vaginal yeast infections typically have one of four active ingredients:

  • Butoconazole
  • Clotrimazole
  • Miconazole
  • Tioconazole

These drugs are all in the same anti-fungal family and work in similar ways to break down the cell wall of the Candida organism that's usually responsible for yeast infections until it dissolves. These products are generally considered safe to use if you are pregnant.

When you visit your healthcare provider the first time you have a vaginal yeast infection, ask which product may be best for you and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the different forms.

Treatments for yeast infection are available as:

  • Vaginal suppositories (inserts)
  • Vaginal tablets
  • Creams with special applicators

Once you start using an OTC anti-fungal medication, your yeast infection symptoms will probably begin to resolve within a few days.

It's extremely important to continue to use your medication for the entire number of days recommended. Even if your symptoms have gone away, the fungus may still be active enough to cause a relapse.

When using any of these products, you should talk to your healthcare provider about alternatives to prevent sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. Some of these OTC options can weaken condom material and spermicide, so be sure to read the directions.

In addition, vaginal intercourse during treatment could displace medication from the vagina, causing irritation and lessening effectiveness.

When to see a doctor for yeast infection.

Cindy Chung / Verywell

When To Contact Your Healthcare Provider

OTC treatments are highly effective, but if any of these apply to you while using one, contact your healthcare provider:

  • Abdominal pain, fever, or a foul-smelling discharge
  • Increased irritation of the vagina or nearby skin
  • No improvement within three days

Make sure you read the label on OTC products and you should only use products for the area of the body they are meant to be used on—you should not use products on your vagina if they are meant to be used only on other areas of the body.

These OTC products are not intended for use by men, nor should they be used for other types of infections, such as fungal infections under the fingernails or inside the mouth (known as thrush).

If your symptoms recur within two months, tell your healthcare provider.


You can ask your healthcare provider for a prescription for Diflucan (fluconazole) if you'd prefer taking a single oral dose of medication instead of using a vaginal cream or suppository. The drug is appropriate for uncomplicated cases and has mild to moderate side effects—including headache, diarrhea, heartburn, and stomach pain. 

Oral fluconazole should generally be avoided if you are pregnant since high doses can cause birth defects.

Severe and Recurrent Infections

For severe or frequent Candida vaginal yeast infections, a healthcare provider may prescribe two to three doses of Diflucan given 72 hours apart. Another oral medication that can be used in these cases is Nizoral (ketoconazole), which is taken for seven to 14 days, either once or twice daily, depending on your healthcare provider's recommendations.

If you have recurring yeast infections, your healthcare provider may recommend prolonged vaginal or oral treatment: for example 10 to 14 days of treatment with a clotrimazole vaginal suppository or two to three doses of oral Diflucan pill, then weekly doses of Diflucan for six months or possibly a topical medication.

Sometimes a yeast infection is caused by the species Candida glabrata, which doesn't respond to the usual oral medications. The alternatives include 14 days of intravaginal treatment with a boric acid gelatin capsule, nystatin suppository, 17% flucytosine cream, or a cream with 17% flucytosine and 3% amphotericin B.

It is important to take the full amount of medication recommended and not stop early when you feel better or when the symptoms are gone. Stopping early can allow the most resistant yeast to multiply. This is especially true if you have diabetes because the condition puts you at a higher risk of having the yeast infection spread.

Home Remedies and Lifestyle

There are many ways you can reduce your risk of a yeast infection (or a recurrence) and speed healing if you have one. These generally involve eliminating sources of vaginal irritation and yeast transmission and preventing a vaginal environment that leads to the overgrowth of yeast.


To relieve symptoms, you can sit in a warm (not hot) bath or take a shower. You may want to avoid soap and just rinse with water. Perfumed bath additives, feminine hygiene sprays, and body powders can be irritating to the genital area and should be avoided during treatment (as well as afterward to lessen the risk of recurrence).

Keeping your vaginal area cool and dry is important both during treatment and to prevent a recurrence. Wear underwear with a cotton crotch and avoid too-tight pants and pantyhose. You may want to switch to wearing skirts or loose pants at least until the infection is cleared.

Exercise is fine during treatment, including swimming. However, be sure to change out of wet swimwear or sweaty exercise clothes as soon as possible. Also, be sure to launder these items between each wearing.

Be sure to wipe from front to back after a bowel movement to prevent transferring yeast that naturally occurs in the bowel and rectum to the vaginal area. This also helps prevent urinary tract infections.

Vaginal Care

Condom or oral dam use can prevent the passing of yeast to and from your sexual partner. It is possible for a male partner to get a yeast skin infection on his penis or have irritation from a vaginal treatment product. If you're using one, remember to read medication instructions to ensure that it doesn't influence condom effectiveness.

If you're advised to avoid vaginal sex during the treatment, be sure you know when you can resume safely. Post-menopausal women and women who use oral contraceptives may find using a vaginal lubricant during sexual intercourse helpful in preventing vaginal discomfort and irritation that can lead to future yeast infections.

If you are using a vaginal cream or suppository for treatment, refrain from using tampons, as they can block or remove the medication. Opt for a deodorant-free pad or liner if menstruating or just to protect your clothes from leakage, and change it often to prevent additional moisture build-up. Douching is never advised and it is especially to be avoided while you are clearing a yeast infection.

Advice for Relieving Yeast Infection Symptoms

  • Sit in a warm bath (but don't add perfumed bath products)
  • Avoid soap and just use plain water
  • Don't douche, and don't use feminine hygiene sprays or powders
  • Wear cotton underwear
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing, like pantyhose or skinny jeans

Complementary Medicine (CAM)

You will see suggestions to use a variety of non-pharmacologic remedies. There are a couple that are supported by research, to different degrees.

Boric Acid Suppository

Use of a boric acid suppository is accepted as a treatment for Candida species other than the most common one, Candida albicans, which responds well to the usual treatments.

The boric acid is contained in a gelatin capsule, and you can get instructions on how to make your own using over-the-counter boric acid and a fillable size 0 or 00 gelatin capsule. You should be sure that you get medical advice on using this; 600 milligrams, once or twice daily for seven to 14 days is usually recommended.

You should never take boric acid by mouth or use it on open wounds. It is not safe to use while pregnant. Even when used as recommended, you may have some skin irritation.

Probiotics and Active-Culture Yogurt

The health of the vagina relies on beneficial probiotic bacteria (lactobacilli, including L. acidophilus) to maintain a slightly acidic pH and keep yeast from overgrowing. Some suggest that women consume probiotics naturally found in yogurt or kefir, take probiotic supplements, or apply probiotic products vaginally (as appropriate), either to help relieve yeast infection symptoms or prevent recurrent yeast infections.

Some study reviews have found no benefit of using probiotics, while others say there may be some. Studies are ongoing in the use of a slow-release vaginal product that has specific lactobacilli.

People with a suppressed immune system or recent abdominal surgery should avoid probiotic supplements. Supplements aren't regulated by the FDA. However, enjoying yogurt or kefir as part of a balanced diet poses little risk.

More Research Needed

You may see suggestions for using coconut oil; oregano oil, tea tree oil, other essential oils; or garlic supplements for yeast infections. Clinical studies are needed to show that they are safe and effective in humans, especially pregnant women. These either haven't been done or have shown that these options are not effective, as in the case of garlic

A wide variety of plant oils and extracts have antifungal effects in the test tube, but many can be irritating or toxic to the body.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does a yeast infection last?

    It depends on your specific case and the treatment used. Most of the time, yeast infections clear up within a few days to a week after treatment. Let your healthcare provider know if your symptoms don't improve in three days or if they go away and come back.

  • What causes a yeast infection?

    Candida is a type of yeast that's normally found in your body, including the vagina. If the environment inside the vagina changes, it can cause this yeast to multiply, resulting in a yeast infection.

  • How long should you wait to have sex when being treated for a yeast infection?

    Ideally, you should wait until after your yeast infection is completely gone before having vaginal sex or receiving oral sex. Having sex during treatment may cause vaginal irritation and delay healing. In addition, vaginal creams used to treat yeast infections may cause condoms to break.

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13 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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