You can treat many yeast infections with over-the-counter creams or suppositories that you can buy without a prescription, especially if this isn't the first time you've had a yeast infection and you recognize the symptoms.
But if you get yeast infections often or they’re severe, you may need a prescription medication. Not sure? Then you need to talk to your doctor. If a prescription treatment might help, these are the types your doctor may consider.
Antifungal Vaginal Creams
For severe yeast infections, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal vaginal cream. She may also prescribe a steroid cream for a few days 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 without a prescription. Some are creams you apply inside the vagina. Others are suppositories or vaginal tablets you place in your vagina and let dissolve.
Common examples of creams available over the counter include:
There are also creams that cover different strains of yeast and are only available with a prescription:
- Terconazole (Terazol)
- Butoconazole (Gynazole-1)
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 usually be used for 7 days. If the same product name had a 3 after it, it would be a more concentrated version of the vaginal cream and may only be needed for 3 days.
Oral Antifungal Medications
Sometimes, a doctor may prescribe a single dose of the oral antifungal medication called fluconazole (Diflucan). 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. Your doctor may need to prescribe it if you have a severe infection, and you’d take it for a short time.
You shouldn’t take fluconazole to treat yeast infections if you're pregnant, because it may cause miscarriage or birth defects.
Take the full course -- meaning, use all the pills or creams as prescribed, even if your symptoms go away before you run out of the medicine.
Keep in mind that vaginal creams, vaginal tablets, and suppositories contain oil, which can damage condoms and diaphragms. So you’ll need to use another birth control method or not have sex during treatment, if you don’t want to get pregnant.
Never take any medication --- or even use a nonprescription vaginal cream --- while pregnant without first talking to your doctor.
When to Call Your Doctor
Make the call if your symptoms don't disappear after you finish taking all your medicine as prescribed.
See your doctor if you have four or more vaginal yeast infections in one year. Your doctor may call this “recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis.” It’s not common, but if you have it, you may need to take an antifungal medication for up to 6 months.
Frequent, repeated yeast infections can also be a sign of a resistant strain or more serious condition, including untreated diabetes. Your doctor can find out what the problem is.
Also call your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about your prescription and how to take your medicine.