Yeast Infection Treatment

In the past, treatment for yeast infections with an antifungal medication typically would begin only after a diagnosis from a health care professional. Today, many over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal medications are available, including creams, ointments, suppositories or tablets. These medications include:

  • butoconazole (Femstat 3)
  • terconazole (Terazol)
  • tioconazole (Monistat-1, Vagistat-1)
  • miconazole (Monistat 7)
  • clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin 3)

If you've never had a yeast infection before, or if you have fever, abdominal pain, foul-smelling discharge, are diabetic, HIV-positive, pregnant or nursing, you should be seen by your health care professional. Never use an OTC anti-yeast product when you are pregnant except with your health care professional's advice.


However, in general, it's acceptable to use OTC antifungal medication to treat your symptoms if you've had a yeast infection diagnosed by a health care professional before and you are now experiencing the same symptoms. The only difference between the various OTC medications now available is the length of treatment and cost. The shorter course of treatment is more convenient but often more expensive.

If you take medication to treat a yeast infection — OTC medication or prescription medication — be sure to take the full course of the prescription. Don't cut it short, even if you begin to feel better. Your symptoms may begin to improve before the infection is completely treated. Consult your health care professional if your symptoms fail to respond to OTC remedies or recur shortly after clearing up.


Yeast Infection Treatment (<i>cont'd</i>)

Studies find about a 50 percent error rate in self-diagnosis of yeast infections. Thus, if you think that you have a yeast infection, there's a one in two chance you're wrong. But the medicines are harmless and the cost of a trial course is undoubtedly cheaper than a doctor visit. If your symptoms are strongly suggestive of a yeast infection, it's probably worth trying one of the over-the-counter medicines. If symptoms persist for more than 48 hours after starting the medicine, however, or if they return promptly, see your health care provider.

Side effects of these medications are minimal but may include allergic reaction (shortness of breath, closing of the throat, swelling of the lips, face, or tongue or hives) in rare cases, in which you should stop using them and seek emergency medical treatment. More common side effects are burning, itching, irritation of the skin and an increased need to urinate.


Also, keep in mind that antifungal medications may damage a condom or diaphragm, rendering both ineffective against pregnancy and condoms ineffective against sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, you can use a sanitary napkin or pad while using these medications, but do not use a tampon.

If you see a health care professional, he or she may prescribe a single dose of oral fluconazole (Diflucan) or a generic equivalent, although this treatment is not recommended during pregnancy. Also, do not take fluconazole if you are taking cisapride (Propulsid) because this drug combination could cause serious, even fatal, heart problems. In rare cases, fluconazole has also caused severe skin rash, sometimes resulting in death. Again, notify your health care professional immediately if you develop a rash while taking fluconazole. Other, less serious side effects may be more likely to occur.

These include:

  • diarrhea
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • itching

Notify your healthcare professional if you are taking the prescription blood thinning medicine warfarin - there have been reported drug interactions between this anticoagulant medication and topical miconazole nitrate products (such as Monistat 7) and oral fluconazole (Diflucan). Symptoms include excessive bleeding and bruising.

If you don't treat a yeast infection, it may go away by itself and soaking in plain water can help. But you also may develop a more severe pelvic infection. In a woman who does not have adequate immune system function (a woman with HIV/AIDS, for example), the yeast infection could enter the bloodstream and cause an aggressive infection involving multiple organ systems in the body, although it is uncommon. Immediate hospitalization and treatment with intravenous medications would then be necessary.


Yeast Infection Treatment (<i>cont'd</i>)

Treatment of sexual partners is not typically recommended; it's not clear if yeast infections are transmitted sexually. However, if a male sex partner does show symptoms of Candida balanitis — redness, irritation and/or itching at the tip of the penis — he may need to be treated with an antifungal cream or ointment.

For best results, it's advisable not to have vaginal intercourse while using medications to treat a yeast infection, as your body needs a chance to completely heal and you don't want to take the chance of transmitting the infection to your partner.


Medications cure 80 to 90 percent of vaginal yeast infections within two weeks or less, often within a few days.

Some women prefer home remedies to antifungal medication. Yogurt containing lactobacillus cultures, applied with an applicator or as a douche, is one such treatment. The stamp, "contains live cultures," on the yogurt container indicates that it contains lactobacillus cultures. Drinking cranberry juice may also help prevent the occurrence of yeast infections and aid in their treatment.

Medical experts are still trying to determine the most effective way to treat recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (RVVC). Currently, most health care professionals treat RVVC with two weeks of intensive medication, followed by up to six months of a lower maintenance dose. Your health care professional may recommend treating your partner if you experience RVVC, since researchers are not clear what causes RVVC.

Remember, don't douche because douching alters the normal bacterial balance in the vagina.

Copyright 2003

National Women's Health Resource Center Inc. (NWHRC).