Yeast Infections: What You Should Know
Yeast infections are common in many people, primarily women with monthly periods. The female vagina has a yeast (or fungus), Candida, that naturally occurs. Yeast infections occur when the Candida overgrows and causes an infection. These infections can be easy to treat and, in some cases, can even be treated over-the-counter (OTC).
Who is more likely to get a yeast infection?
In addition to menstruation presence, other risk factors that can increase the risk of developing yeast infections are those that alter the number of yeast in the vagina or the pH of the vagina, which may include:
- Antibiotic use
- Contraceptive use (including oral and devices)
- Sexual intercourse
What are common symptoms of a yeast infection?
The common symptoms of a yeast infection include the following:
- Extreme itchiness in and around the vagina
- Burning, redness, and swelling
- Pain during urination
- Changes in discharge (looks like cottage cheese with normal smell)
How are yeast infections diagnosed?
If you think you have a yeast infection, you should confirm your symptoms with your doctor or pharmacist. Yeast infection symptoms are like other infections that can be more serious if not properly treated. So, getting a proper diagnosis can help you treat your infection easier and faster. At-home yeast infection test kits can also help diagnose a yeast infection, if needed, and you can still seek support from your local pharmacist.
How do I treat a yeast infection?
There are multiple prescription and OTC medication options to treat yeast infection. Some alternative medicines, such as yogurt and cranberry juice, may provide relief, but there is currently no evidence for these methods.
- Over-the-Counter treatment. Miconazole, tioconazole, and clotrimazole are antifungal drugs available at your nearby pharmacies that come in a variety of doses and forms. Miconazole is sold under the brand name Monistat and comes as a cream or suppository that you insert into and/or around the vagina using the included applicator. Depending on the product you buy, you will do this once (Monistat 1), or nightly for 3 days (Monistat 3), or nightly for 7 days (Monistat 7). Tioconazole is sold under the brand name Vagistat and comes as an ointment. Similar to miconazole cream, tioconazole is inserted vaginally using the provided application but it is only inserted once. Clotrimazole comes as a vaginal cream and is sold under the brand name Trivagizole. It is also inserted into, or around, the vagina using the provided applicator and is given for 3 or 7 days depending on the product bought. Read the instructions provided very carefully to make sure you use the product exactly as directed. Some helpful tips for using these products include:
- Wash your hands before and after applying the product
- Wear a panty liner or pad after inserting the cream or ointment to protect your underwear
- Do not have vaginal intercourse or insert anything vaginally during your treatment
- Continue to use the product even if you are on your period but avoid tampon use
- Apply these products while lying down and before going to bed
- Prescription treatment. Your doctor can prescribe a medicine to take by mouth called fluconazole (Diflucan). Most women only need one dose of the prescription medication to treat their symptoms. Oral fluconazole comes as a tablet or a suspension, so take this medication according to the instructions. Side effects of fluconazole can be mild, such as headache and upset stomach. Fluconazole has patient-specific warnings and drug interactions that should be discussed with your provider before starting treatment.
How do I prevent future yeast infections?
You can prevent yeast infections by avoiding using scented feminine products, avoid douching, wearing cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothing, avoiding hot baths, periodically changing feminine hygiene products like pads, tampons and panty liners, change out of wet clothing frequently, and engaging in safe-sex practices.
If you are experiencing symptoms similar to a yeast infection, speak with your doctor or pharmacist to find simple solutions to treat this infection. Your pharmacist can also answer any questions you may have about how to properly take oral antifungals or apply vaginal antifungals.