Getting rid of a yeast infection

Dear Alice,

How can I get rid of a vaginal yeast infection?

— Cheesy

Dear Cheesy, 

Yeast and other vaginal infections can cause a great deal of discomfort, so it's no wonder you’re itching to get rid of it! The first step in treating a vaginal yeast infection is having an accurate diagnosis, as many other conditions can have similar symptoms. Treatments for yeast infections can include over-the-counter (OTC) options. In some cases, health care providers may also prescribe medication. If you find that you’re having recurrent yeast infections, you may want to seek medical care for a longer-term treatment plan.  

When it comes to treating a vaginal yeast infection, the first options are often OTC treatments. These treatments are usually taken for three to seven days, with most consisting of either antifungal creams or suppositories, as well as anti-itch medication. The cream or suppository is inserted into the vagina and the anti-itch medication is spread around the vulva to reduce itching and irritation. While the anti-itch creams don’t actually treat the infection, it can help reduce discomfort. Additionally, a health care provider may prescribe to you a single dose of antifungal medication to be taken by mouth. However, this course of treatment isn’t recommended for people who are pregnant. If you've had yeast infections before, you can probably recognize the symptoms, but if an infection has been recurrent, a self-diagnosis might be incorrect. Other vaginal infections, such as bacterial vaginosis or some sexually transmitted infections (STIs), have similar symptoms and can result in serious health problems if mistreated with wrong medicine. Moreover, it can also cause your body to become resistant to the yeast infection medication, making it harder to treat future infections if they occur. 

For more severe or frequent infections, a health care provider may prescribe you to take regular doses of the oral antifungal medication for up to six months. In addition, they may recommend a boric acid capsule to be inserted into the vagina. However, this medication is only used to treat yeast infections that are particularly resilient to the usual antifungal treatments. Moreover, while there isn’t enough research to determine their effectiveness, some people swear by non-medical remedies for yeast infection treatment. These include eating plain, live acidophilus culture yogurt or taking acidophilus capsules to help restore the balance of yeast and bacteria in the body. Certain circumstances can cause recurrent yeast infections, including pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, the use of oral contraceptives, douching, or possibly passing the infection back and forth between partners. In the last case, both partners will need to be treated. Your provider can determine the underlying cause(s) of your yeast infection(s) that might affect your course of treatment. 

Here's to some relief, 

Last updated Aug 20, 2021
Originally published Dec 16, 1994

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