How To Get Rid of a Yeast Infection

Available Treatments for This Common Infection

Pharmacist and customer discussing prescription in pharmacy
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A yeast infection is an infection caused by a fungus called Candida. It's typically found on the skin or on mucous membranes and is most common in women between 16 and 35. It's not life-threatening or even serious, but it can be uncomfortable. And because a yeast infection can be passed from one person to another, having one can mean putting a temporary hold on having sex.

Here's what else it's helpful to know about vaginal yeast infections, from the symptoms they cause to how they're treated.

Signs You May Have a Yeast Infection

The main symptom is vaginal itching. Once you've had one yeast infection, you'll come to recognize this sign if you have another. Yeast infections also cause a white, thick discharge with a curd-like consistency that's mostly odorless. This is different from the discharge that many women have midway between their menstrual periods.

Yeast infections can cause other symptoms, but it's important to know that you can have a yeast infection without any of these other conditions:

Common Causes

Some women get mild yeast infections toward the end of their menstrual period, possibly in response to changes in hormones. These mild infections sometimes go away without treatment as the menstrual cycle progresses. Yeast infections are more common during pregnancy too. Pregnant women are more prone to developing yeast infections.

Sometimes, hot, humid weather can make it easier for yeast infections to develop. Wearing layers of clothing in the winter that make you too warm indoors can also increase the likelihood of infection.

Over-the-Counter Treatments for Yeast Infections

The OTC products available for vaginal yeast infections typically have one of four active ingredients: butoconazole nitrate, clotrimazole, miconazole, and tioconazole.

These drugs are in the same anti-fungal family and work in similar ways to break down the cell wall of the Candida organism until it dissolves.

When you visit your doctor the first time you have a yeast infection, ask which product may be best for you and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the different forms the products come in: vaginal suppositories (inserts) versus creams with special applicators.

Once you start using an OTC anti-fungal medication, your yeast infection symptoms will probably start to disappear within a few days. As with antibiotics, though, it's extremely important to continue to use your medication for the entire number of days your doctor prescribes. Even if your symptoms have gone away, the fungus may still be active enough to cause a relapse. 

A few precautions about non-prescription treatments for fungal infections: They should never be used by men, nor should they be used for other types of infections, such as fungal infections under the fingernails or inside the mouth (known as thrush).

Over-the-counter fungal treatments are highly effective, but if you have any of these symptoms while using one, contact your doctor:

  • abdominal pain, fever, or a foul-smelling discharge
  • no improvement within three days
  • symptoms that recur within two months

You may need a stronger approach to fighting off the fungus once and for all.