A vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection that causes itching and a discharge that can range from slightly watery to a consistency resembling that of cottage cheese. About three-fourths of women experience at least one yeast infection sometime in their lives.
Some medications for yeast infections are available without a prescription. These come in either a vaginal cream or suppository. Many are available in one-day, three-day, or seven-day strength. For many people, these medications are very effective. You should speak with your doctor before using over the counter treatments.
Vaginal creams, ointments, tablets, and suppositories also are available at a stronger strength with a prescription. Side effects can include burning sensation or irritation when applied.
When using an ointment, cream or suppository, check to see if the product is oil-based. These can weaken latex so if you are using condoms as birth control, you might need to abstain from sex or use a different birth control method.
Your doctor can also prescribe an antifungal medication, fluconazole (Diflucan), which comes as a single pill. Most people only need one dose. For more severe infections, you might be prescribed two doses, taken three days apart. This treatment is not recommended if you are pregnant.
More Severe Infections
For more severe or recurrent yeast infections, your doctor might prescribe azole medications, which come as creams, ointments, tablets, or suppositories and are used for anywhere from seven to 14 days.
If you continue to get yeast infections after treatment, your doctor might recommend taking a maintenance medication to prevent further infections. Maintenance treatments can include using a suppository or taking an oral medication once a week for six months.
Your Partner’s Infections
If your partner is experiencing symptoms of a yeast infection, or if you have recurrent yeast infections, your doctor might recommend treatment for your partner, as well.
Some women use probiotics, either as a supplement or through yogurt with live cultures, to help treat and prevent yeast infections. Some place yogurt on a cotton tampon and insert it into the vagina.
Or Not to Probiotic
In a few small studies, probiotics have been found helpful in reducing or preventing yeast infections. Other studies have not been able to confirm that probiotics help at all.
Another alternative remedy is a clove of garlic inserted directly into the vagina as a suppository. According to experts, however, there is scant clinical evidence that this treatment works.
If you believe you have a yeast infection, the best advice is to talk to your doctor. Together you can determine the best treatment for you.