Yeast Infections: Should You Treat Yourself, or See a Doctor?
In many cases, you can safely treat a vaginal yeast infection with an over-the-counter medication. You can also try treating a yeast infection at home with these tips for self-care to relieve itching, burning, and other symptoms. Just know the three situations when you should see a doctor, and you're well on your way to healthy self-care for yeast infections.
When Self-Care Might Be OK
You've been previously diagnosed with a yeast infection and you now have the same symptoms, so you are absolutely sure you have a yeast infection and not something else.
You haven't had sex with a new partner, so you're not at risk of having been exposed to any new STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Many of the symptoms of a yeast infection -- itching, burning, and vaginal discharge -- can mimic the symptoms of STDs.
See Your Doctor
These three situations need a doctor's attention:
It's the first yeast infection you've ever had. See a doctor to be sure it's not a more serious problem that needs a different treatment, such as a urinary tract infection or STD.
You're pregnant. Any medications, including over-the-counter vaginal creams, need to be approved by your doctor during pregnancy.
You have frequent yeast infections. Having four or more yeast infections in one year is 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, repeat yeast infections can also be a sign that you have diabetes or another medical condition.
If you're anxious about your symptoms or they're different from past yeast infections you've had, you may want to see your health care provider for your own peace of mind. Because symptoms are uncomfortable, some women will ask for a prescription-strength vaginal cream to ease the itching and burning faster than an over-the-counter product would.
Tips for Self-Care
There are things you can do to prevent yeast infections from returning, and to treat a yeast infection once you have it.
Yogurt. Eating yogurt with live cultures of lactobacillus acidophilus -- a natural, "friendly" bacteria -- may help prevent a yeast infection from recurring.
Acidophilus. Taking supplements containing lactobacillus acidophilus may also help prevent yeast infections.
Watch what you wear. Avoid tight-fitting pants and wear cotton panties to allow your body to "breathe" and stay cool. Yeast love a moist, warm environment -- so keep things airy and dry to prevent a yeast infection from coming back.
Nonprescription vaginal creams. If you already have a yeast infection, try one of the over-the-counter medications you can buy in your local drugstore to treat your symptoms. These come in vaginal creams that you insert into the vagina with a plastic applicator, as well as dissolvable tablets or suppositories (oval-shaped doses of the medication you insert into the vagina).