Yeast Infection Treatments: Prescription Drugs
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 stronger yeast infection treatment may be needed.
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 tablets you place in the vagina and let dissolve. Common examples include:
- Lotrimin and Mycelex (clotrimazole)
- Monistat and Micatin (miconazole)
- Terazol (terconazole)
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 stronger version of the vaginal cream and only be needed for three days.
Yeast Infections: 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.
Yeast Infections: Medication Safety Tips
- 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.
- Be aware that vaginal creams, tablets, and suppositories contain oil, which can damage condoms and diaphragms. It's best to abstain from sex or use alternate birth control during treatment.
- 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 six months with an antifungal medication. Frequent, repeated yeast infections can also be a sign of a more serious condition, including an early sign of HIV.
- Call your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about treatment.