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Vaginal yeast infections are uncomfortable, causing itching, irritation, and discharge. They’re also quite common: Three out of four women may get one at some point in their lives. The good news is they can usually be managed with over-the-counter treatments and home remedies.
Yeast infections can develop for a variety of reasons. Some women get them around their period or during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. Certain birth control pills may also increase your risk of getting a yeast infection.
Yeast (Candida) is a fungus that can live almost anywhere. It’s found naturally in your body, but your immune system keeps it from growing out of control. When too much yeast multiplies in the vagina, it causes an infection.
Anything that changes the normal balance of bacteria and yeast in your vagina has the potential to cause a yeast infection. For example, antibiotics taken to kill a harmful bacterial infection may also kill the lactobacillus bacteria, the good bacteria in your vagina that keep yeast in check.
Conditions that affect your immune system, such as sexually transmitted diseases, can also contribute to yeast infections. Women with diabetes whose blood sugar isn’t properly controlled are also at a higher risk. This is because higher sugar levels promote yeast growth.
Here’s how to manage a yeast infection and how to prevent future ones as well.
If you’re looking to get rid of your current yeast infection, your first course of action will likely be an over-the-counter medication:
Over-the-counter medications for yeast infections usually come in the form of a cream, ointment, or suppository. They’re available at most drug stores or grocery stores. Common brands are Monistat and Vagistat. Some only require one-day treatment, while others may need to be used from three to seven days. Follow the instructions on the packaging and don’t stop using the medication early even if symptoms are gone.
These over-the-counter medications are generally effective for women who have mild infections and don’t get yeast infections often.
While medication is a more proven method of getting rid of an infection, there are some natural remedies to try as well:
Whether you’ve had a yeast infection before or not, here are some ways to prevent or avoid having one in the future:
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises women against douching. This is because it can kill good bacteria in the vagina that prevent infections. Instead, you should clean only the outside areas of your vagina with gentle soap and water.
Don’t try to diagnose yourself with a yeast infection. Visit your doctor to confirm the infection even if you plan to use at-home remedies. Sometimes other infections can be mistaken for yeast infections. Make sure you’re using the correct treatment.
Talk to your doctor if your yeast infection doesn’t improve after using home remedies or over-the-counter medications. You may need a prescription medication.
Written by: Rena Goldman
Medically reviewed on: Jul 28, 2015: Steven Kim, MD
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