Vaginitis and Vaginal Infections
Vaginal Infections Treatment
Diagnosis of a vaginal infection is usually made based on your symptoms and results of urine tests and vaginal cultures (samples checked in the lab). Treatment is based on the organism causing the infection. Depending on the cause of the infection, your health care provider may prescribe vaginal suppositories or antibiotics (as pills or a shot). Treatment varies depending on which form of vaginitis you have, the severity of infection, duration of infection, recurrence of infection, and whether you are pregnant.
Vaginal Infection Care at Home
The vaginal infections bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis will not go away with home care or over-the-counter medications. They require antibiotics. You must see your health care provider.
Only yeast infections may respond to over-the-counter medications. If you have never had a yeast infection and think you have one, it is important that your health care provider agrees with this diagnosis before you try any home care techniques or over-the-counter medications. Generally, the first incidence of yeast infection should be treated by your health care provider.
After the first yeast infection, if a second infection occurs and you have no doubt it is a yeast infection, you may treat yourself with one course of over-the-counter vaginal medication, such as miconazole (brand name Monistat), an antifungal vaginal medication.
Because over-the-counter treatments have become available, many women diagnose themselves with a yeast infection, when, in fact, two-thirds of all remedies purchased in stores to treat yeast infection were used by women who did not really have one. Using these drugs when they are not needed may lead to a resistant infection. Resistant infections are very difficult to treat with the currently available medications. If in doubt, consult your health care provider.
Many current over-the-counter drugs are available for mild yeast infection cases. The cure rates are about 75%-90% with these medications, which are sold as vaginal suppositories or creams. They are inserted into the vagina with a plunger-type applicator and are usually used one each day for a week. Stronger doses are given over one to three days only. Most women can treat yeast infections at home with these medications:
- Tioconazole (Vagistat Vaginal)
- Miconazole (Monistat-7, M-Zole)
- Butoconazole (Femstat)
- Clotrimazole (Femizole-7, Gyne-Lotrimin)
- Massage these remedies into your vagina and surrounding tissues for one to seven days or insert the suppository form into your vagina, depending on the formulation. If increased irritation occurs to the area, discontinue the medication immediately.
- If you are pregnant, consult your doctor before using these treatments.
- If symptoms continue for more than one week, consult your doctor. You may have a severe yeast infection or other problems that mimic a yeast infection.
Home care techniques have been used for many years, although scientific studies have not proven their effectiveness. Some home remedies for yeast and other vaginal infections include:
- Vinegar douches: While many women use a douche to clean themselves after menstrual periods or sexual intercourse, doctors discourage such routine cleansing. The vagina is made to cleanse itself. Douching may remove the healthy bacteria lining the vagina. By attempting to treat an abnormal vaginal discharge by douching, you might actually worsen the condition. Do not douche without your health care provider's knowledge when you have an abnormal discharge, and do not douche for 24 hours prior to seeing the doctor.
- Eating yogurt containing live acidophilus cultures (or eating acidophilus capsules): Yogurt acts as a medium for certain good bacteria to thrive. One study showed that people who ate 1 cup of yogurt each day for six months reduced the incidence of yeast infection. Researchers think the bacteria grow in your gastrointestinal tract and vaginal canal where they restore or supplement the normal bacteria there and stop the growth of the candidal yeast. Yogurt must contain live bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus. Read yogurt labels. Yogurts containing the live bacteria are most likely the low-fat (not no-fat) varieties.
- Other products available over-the-counter contain antihistamines or topical anesthetics (numbing medications) that only mask the symptoms and do not treat the underlying problem.