Harvard Women's Health Watch

Ask the doctor: Can I treat myself for a yeast infection?

Q. I recently took antibiotics to treat an oral infection and as a result developed a vaginal yeast infection. Can I treat it myself, and what are the most effective options?

A. If you've had yeast infections in the past and know for certain that your symptoms are the result of that problem, it's safe to diagnose yourself. But if you have symptoms you're not sure about, I recommend that you see your doctor or nurse practitioner to get a formal diagnosis. There is an important distinction to be made about whether you have an uncomplicated or complicated infection, based on your symptoms and the kind of yeast that is causing the symptoms. Your doctor may want to do a culture to determine the type of yeast. Candida albicans is the most common cause of vaginal yeast infections, but other species, like C. glabrata or C. tropicalis, may also be to blame and can require different treatment.

Prescription fluconazole (Diflucan) is most effective for treating infrequent yeast infections, and it is now available in an inexpensive, single-dose generic form. However, you can first try an over-the-counter antifungal cream such as miconazole nitrate (Monistat), clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin), or tioconazole (Vagistat-1), especially if it has worked for you in the past. These products usually come in one-to-three-day regimens. For complicated infections, you may need to stay on one or more antifungal drugs for seven to 14 days.

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