How To Get Rid of a Yeast Infection

Available Treatments for This Common Infection

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A yeast infection is a fungal infection, typically found on the skin or on your mucous membranes, caused by candida. Such infections are most common in teenage girls and women ages 16 to 35, although they can occur at other ages. You do not need to be sexually active to get a yeast infection.

Though itchiness is the main symptom of yeast infections, if you've never had one before, it's hard to be sure just what might be causing your discomfort.

 Another symptom of a vaginal yeast infection is a white, curd-like, or thick discharge that is mostly odorless. Although some women have discharges midway between their menstrual periods, these are usually not yeast infections, especially if there's no itching.

Other symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include:

It's important to remember that not all women experience all of these symptoms. You should contact your doctor in order to confirm the appropriate diagnosis. In fact, the FDA requires that over-the-counter (OTC) products marketed for the treatment of yeast infections carry the following warning:

"If you experience vaginal yeast infections frequently (they recur within a two-month period) or if you have vaginal yeast infections that do not clear up easily with proper treatment, you should see your doctor promptly to determine the cause and receive proper medical care."

Why Do I Have a Yeast Infection?

Some women get mild yeast infections toward the end of their menstrual period, possibly in response to the body's hormonal changes. These mild infections sometimes go away without treatment as the menstrual cycle progresses. Pregnant women are also more prone to developing yeast infections.

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

"Candida infections are not usually thought of as sexually transmitted diseases," says Renata Albrecht, M.D., of the FDA's division of anti-infective drug products. But, she adds, they can be transmitted during sex.

The best way to prevent yeast infections is to abstain from sex. But if you do have sex, using a condom will help with prevention.

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) and creams with special applicators. Remember to read the warnings on the product's labeling carefully and follow the instructions.

Symptoms usually improve within a few days, but it's important to continue using the medication for the number of days directed, even if you no longer have symptoms.

Contact your doctor if you have the following:

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

OTC products are only for vaginal yeast infections. They should not be used by men or for yeast infections in other areas of the body, such as the mouth or under the fingernails.

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