How Vaginal Yeast Infection Is Treated

A vaginal yeast infection is a common and uncomfortable problem that many women will experience at least once. Fortunately, there are many treatment options available.

Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments may be adequate for milder yeast infections. However, symptoms can sometimes be caused by other conditions, so you should get a diagnosis before treating yourself. If your yeast infection is severe or a chronic problem, your provider may prescribe an oral or topical medication.

This article covers the various OTC and prescription medications available to treat vaginal yeast infections. It also discusses some home remedies and lifestyle changes you can try to speed healing along and help prevent future yeast infections.

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. They work in similar ways to break down the Candida organism, which is the type of fungus that most commonly causes yeast infections. Eventually, the organism dissolves and the infection clears up.

These drugs are generally considered safe to use if you are pregnant.

When you visit your healthcare provider for your vaginal yeast infection, discuss the pros and cons of the different types of medications available and ask which is best for you.

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.

Some antifungal inserts and creams can damage condom material, diaphragms, and spermicide. A warning about this should be listed on product labels, so be sure to read them. To prevent sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, talk to your healthcare provider about alternative treatments that don't come with the same risk.

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

When to see a doctor for yeast infection.

Verywell / Cindy Chung

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. You should only use products for the area of the body they are meant to be used on. Do 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. They should also not be used for other types of infections, such as fungal infections under the fingernails or inside the mouth (known as thrush).

Prescriptions

If you see your healthcare provider for a mild or moderate yeast infection, they may prescribe a single dose of Diflucan (fluconazole).

Diflucan is appropriate for uncomplicated cases. It can cause 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, your 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). It 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, you may take two to three doses of the oral Diflucan pill, then weekly doses of Diflucan for six months or possibly a topical medication.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Vivjoa (oteseconazole) in 2022 for recurrent or chronic yeast infections in nonreproductive women. The drug is intended for use by women who are permanently infertile and postmenopausal. Vivjoa is administered in capsule form and may be taken alone or with Diflucan.

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.

Research shows that people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are significantly more likely to develop recurring yeast infections than people who do not have diabetes. If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar well-controlled may help reduce your risk.

Home Remedies and Lifestyle

Some home remedies may help ease symptoms and eliminate sources of vaginal irritation. These include:

  • Sitting in a warm (not hot) bath. The warm water might help to relieve some symptoms. You may want to avoid soap and just rinse with water.
  • Avoiding perfumed bath additives, feminine hygiene sprays, and body powders. These can irritate the genital area.
  • Wearing cotton underwear and avoiding too-tight pants and pantyhose. You may want to switch to wearing skirts or loose pants until the infection is cleared. This can help speed healing by keeping the area cool and dry.
  • Changing out of wet swimwear or sweaty clothes as soon as possible. Also, be sure to wash these items between each wear.

Vaginal Care During Treatment

Your healthcare provider may advise you to avoid vaginal sex during the treatment. Be sure you know when you can resume safely. 

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

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.

You can always wear a pad to protect your clothes from leakage. Just be sure to 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.

Complementary Medicine (CAM)

You may choose to consider one or more of the following complementary remedies. Some are supported by research, but others require further study to determine their effectiveness.

Boric Acid Suppository

Boric acid suppositories can be used to treat the Candida albicans species of yeast. They can be purchased online or in drugstores, but you should check with your healthcare provider before you take them to ensure you are using a reputable brand.

You can also get instructions on how to make your own boric acid suppositories 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 research suggests that consuming probiotics or taking probiotic supplements can help relieve yeast infection symptoms or prevent recurrent yeast infections. Other studies, however, show there may be no benefit at all.

You can consume probiotics naturally by adding more yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, and sourdough bread to your diet.

Studies are ongoing in the use of a slow-release vaginal product with specific lactobacilli to prevent yeast infections. These tablets are inserted into the vagina every other day for a period of about ten days. As the tablet dissolves, a probiotic biofilm forms in the vagina, creating a protective barrier that prevents the growth of Candida.

People with a suppressed immune system or recent abdominal surgery should avoid probiotic supplements. Supplements aren't regulated by the FDA so check with your doctor before using them.

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 in pregnant women. These either haven't been done, or there is no evidence that they are effective.

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.

Summary

Mild vaginal yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter anti-fungal creams, inserts, and tablets.

Severe or recurring yeast infections may require prescription treatments. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a one-time dose or a multi-day dose depending on the nature of your yeast infection.

Good vaginal hygiene will reduce your risk. This includes bathing regularly, keeping your vaginal area dry, and avoiding tight-fitting clothing.

A Word From Verywell

Most cases of vaginal candidiasis are mild. However, it's possible for the infection to become severe, resulting in redness, swelling, and cracks in the vaginal walls.

To avoid these complications, it's important to get a proper diagnosis from your healthcare provider if you have vaginal yeast infection symptoms. This will ensure that you get treated for the right condition since symptoms can be similar to other conditions, including some sexually transmitted infections.

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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