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.
Antifungal Vaginal Creams
For severe yeast infections, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal vaginal cream. These usually come packaged with an applicator that helps you measure the right dose.
You can get a range of similar yeast infection medications without a prescription, too. Some are creams you apply inside the vagina. Others are suppositories or vaginal tablets you place in your vagina and let dissolve.
There are also creams that cover different strains of yeast. You'll have to have a prescription for these:
- 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, it would be a more concentrated version of the vaginal cream and you'd only need it for 3 days.
Oral Antifungal Medications
Your doctor might prescribe a one-time dose of fluconazole (Diflucan) if you have a severe infection. This drug kills fungus and yeast throughout your body, so you may have minor side effects, such as stomach upset or headaches, for a short time afterward.
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. Use all the pills or creams, even if your symptoms go away before you run out of the medicine.
Keep in mind that vaginal creams, vaginal tablets, and suppositories may be made with 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 you're pregnant unless you've to your doctor first.
When to Call Your Doctor
Reach out to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about your prescription and how to take your medicine. Check in with your doctor's office 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. It could be a condition called “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 help you figure out what the problem is.