Is OTC Treatment OK for a Vaginal Yeast Infection?

You can treat most vaginal yeast infections with an over-the-counter vaginal cream or suppository. Most large drugstores and supermarkets sell them.

Many yeast infection treatments come in 1-day, 3-day, and 7-day strengths. Over-the-counter vaginal creams and other products you can buy often have the same ingredients to fight a yeast infection as the medication your doctor might prescribe, but in less-concentrated doses.

Vaginal Creams

Vaginal creams go inside the vagina to kill off the yeast that cause yeast infections. Sometimes called antifungal creams, these products usually come with an applicator that measure the right dose. Read all package directions carefully first.

Common medicines are:

Vaginal creams can be messy and may leak out during the day, so you’ll only want to use them at bedtime.

Some of these products may come with a cream that you put on the opening of the vagina and surrounding tissue (called the "vulva") and not into the vagina. This type of cream may ease itching and treat the skin tissues while the vaginal antifungal cream treats the yeast infection.

When you use a vaginal cream that’s oil-based, you may need to use birth control that’s not a condom or diaphragm, or skip sex. The oil in the cream could damage the latex in a condom or diaphragm.

Tablets and Suppositories

Medications in vaginal creams (such as clotrimazole and miconazole) may also be available as vaginal tablets or suppositories. You put these into your vagina and let them dissolve. Some brands call them "ovules" because they're oval-shaped. These products often come packaged with a plastic "inserter" that helps you get the medication to the right place.

One benefit of a suppository is that it's less messy than a vaginal cream and less likely to ooze out during the day. Another benefit of tablets or suppositories is that you use the doses for fewer days, so you get symptom relief sooner.

Safety Tips

Before you use any of these products, you need to know for sure that you have a yeast infection, not a different condition. See your doctor if you're not sure, because using the wrong medicine can make an infection harder to diagnose.

Always follow the package directions exactly. Pay special attention to how often to use the product and how much to use. You need to get those two things right, because the dose targets the growth cycle of the yeast.

Complete the whole treatment, even if you feel better.

Antifungal medications can change the way some drugs work. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking an antifungal if you are taking other medications.

No matter which yeast infection treatment you try, see your doctor if your symptoms don't clear up after you finish it.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on January 10, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Vaginitis: Causes and Treatments."

National Library of Medicine: "Vaginal Yeast Infection," "Vaginal Itching."

National Women's Health Information Center: "Vaginal Yeast Infections."

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: "Vaginal Yeast Infections."

CDC: "Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Treatment Guidelines 2006: Vulvovaginal Candidiasis."

American Academy of Family Physicians: "Vaginal Yeast Infections."

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