You can treat most vaginal yeast infections with an over-the-counter vaginal cream or suppository. You can buy these nonprescription vaginal creams and suppositories at most large drugstores and supermarkets.
Many yeast infection treatment doses come in one-day, three-day, and seven-day strengths. Many of the over-the-counter vaginal creams and other products you can buy often contain the same ingredients to fight a yeast infection as the medication your doctor might prescribe -- but in less concentrated doses.
By Meryl Davids Landau
When you were in your 20s and 30s, you probably ignored random aches or other minor physical annoyances, and they usually went away. But now those symptoms can come back — often with a different cause, and calling for more serious attention.
Vaginal creams are typically placed inside the vagina with an applicator to kill off the yeast that cause yeast infections. Vaginal creams, sometimes called "antifungal creams," usually come packaged with an applicator that helps you measure the right dose.
Gyne-Lotrimin or Mycelex (clotrimazole)
Gynezol or Femstat (butoconazole)
Monistat (miconazole nitrate)
Be sure to read all package directions carefully before using any vaginal cream to treat a yeast infection.
Some vaginal creams are used only at bedtime, because they can be messy and leak out of the vagina during the day. Some of these creams may come with a topical vaginal cream designed to be applied to the opening of the vagina and surrounding tissue (called the "vulva") and used externally, rather than inserted into the vagina. The topical cream may help relieve itching while the antifungal cream treats the yeast infection.
If you use a vaginal cream to treat a yeast infection, you may want to abstain from sex if you're using condoms or a diaphragm for birth control. These oil-based creams can damage the latex in a condom or diaphragm.
Yeast Infection Treatments: Tablets and Suppositories
Some of the same medications (such as clotrimazole and miconazole) are manufactured into tablets or suppositories to treat yeast infections. You insert these into the 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 insert the medication into the vagina.
One benefit of a tablet is that it's less messy than a vaginal cream and less apt to ooze out during the day. Another benefit of tablets or suppositories: the doses are typically stronger and used for fewer days, so symptoms are relieved sooner.
Yeast Infection Treatments: Safety Tips
Be sure you actually do have a yeast infection before you start treatment. As many as two-thirds of women who treat themselves with OTC products actually don't have a yeast infection but another kind of vaginal infection. See your doctor if you're not absolutely sure you have a yeast infection, because using the wrong medicine can make a yeast infection harder to treat -- and can prolong the problem if it's not a yeast infection.
Be sure to follow the package directions exactly on how often to use any yeast infection treatment and how much of the product to use, because the dosage is designed to work with the growth cycle of the yeast. Call your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about treatment.
Antifungal medications can interact with a number of drugs. Be sure to 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 disappear after taking the full course of medication. Frequent, repeat yeast infections can be a sign of a more serious condition, including an early sign of HIV.