You can treat many yeast infections with over-the-counter creams or suppositories that you can buy at a drugstore -- especially if this isn't the first time you've had a yeast infection and you recognize the symptoms. But for some women with severe or persistent infections, a different yeast infection treatment may be needed. If you are unsure or have never had a yeast infection before, see your doctor first.
Antifungal Vaginal Creams
For severe yeast infections, your doctor may prescribe a vaginal cream. Some of these antifungal creams include a steroid to ease more severe inflammation, redness, and soreness of the opening of the vagina and the surrounding tissue (called the "vulva"). Vaginal creams usually come packaged with an applicator that helps you measure the right dose.
A range of yeast infection medications are available in prescription-strength amounts of the same ingredients used in over-the-counter products. Some are available as vaginal creams you apply inside the vagina. Others are formulated as suppositories or vaginal tablets you place in the vagina and let dissolve. Common examples include:
In general, the more concentrated the drug, the shorter the time you have to take it. A vaginal cream that has the number 7 after its name, for instance, would be used for seven days. If the same product name had a 3 after it, it would be a more concentrated version of the vaginal cream and only be needed for three days.
Oral Antifungal Medications
Occasionally, your doctor may prescribe a single dose of the oral antifungal medication called Diflucan (fluconazole). This drug kills fungus and yeast throughout your body, so you may have minor side effects, such as stomach upset or headaches, after taking it. Oral drugs for treating yeast infections are not used if you're pregnant, due to risks to the baby.
Tips About Taking Medication
Take the full course of any yeast infection medication, because the dosage is designed to work with the growth cycle of the Candida yeast. Symptoms may ease before the infection is completely gone.
Never take any medication -- or even use a nonprescription vaginal cream -- while pregnant without first talking to your doctor.
See your doctor if your symptoms don't disappear after taking the full course of medication.
See your doctor if you have four or more vaginal yeast infections in one year, called recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (RVVC). Roughly 5% of women develop RVVC and need to be treated for up to 6 months with an antifungal medication. Frequent, repeated yeast infections can also be a sign of a resistant strain or more serious condition, including unreated diabetes or an early sign of HIV.
Call your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about treatment.