Yeast is a fungus that normally lives in the vagina in small numbers. A vaginal yeast infection means that too many yeast cells are growing in the vagina.
A healthy vagina has many bacteria and a small number of yeast cells. The most common bacteria, Lactobacillus acidophilus, help keep other organisms—like the yeast—under control.
Some things can cause an imbalance between these organisms and can prompt yeast to grow. Taking antibiotics sometimes causes this imbalance. So can the high estrogen levels caused by pregnancy or hormone therapy. So can some health problems, such as diabetes.
Although a yeast infection can cause severe itching, pain, and soreness, it's not likely to lead to serious health problems. But if you get a lot of yeast infections, you may have a medical problem that needs treatment with antifungal medicines.
A one-time vaginal yeast infection is usually treated with either:
Another treatment is vaginal boric acid capsules. This may help for a yeast infection that has not gone away with antifungal treatment.1
Not treating. A vaginal yeast infection does not lead to major health problems. And you may find that a mild infection goes away on its own. But you may not be able to go without treatment if you have severe symptoms.
Treating. The biggest risk is treating the wrong problem and delaying diagnosis and treatment of the right one.
If you have been diagnosed with a yeast infection before, you likely know the symptoms and can treat it yourself with an over-the-counter medicine with little risk.
Other conditions have similar symptoms to yeast infections, though. If you aren't sure that your symptoms are caused by a yeast infection and yet you treat it anyway, you might be delaying diagnosis and treatment of your true problem, such as a bacterial vaginal infection or a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Treating a yeast infection with a vaginal cream or suppository poses no major risks. This medicine only affects the vaginal area and usually does not cause pain or tenderness.
If you are pregnant and think you have a yeast infection, see a doctor. Don't treat it yourself.
|Self-treat your yeast infection||Don't self-treat|
|What is usually involved?|
|What are the benefits?|
|What are the risks and side effects?|
Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.
These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.
"During my pregnancy, I developed terribly uncomfortable vaginal yeast symptoms that just about drove me crazy. I knew it was a yeast infection, but since I was pregnant, I just didn't want to do anything I shouldn't. So I went for a quick check, and my nurse midwife sent me right off to get some over-the-counter cream. She told me that even though I'd been right about my diagnosis, I'd done the right thing to see her first. Sometimes it isn't what you think it is, and you never know what medicines are safe when you're pregnant."
— Anna, age 24
"I started getting a vaginal itch last week, which I've had diagnosed before as a yeast infection. Although I was going to get some medicine right away, my sister reminded me that sometimes they go away on their own. After a few days, it was better. If it comes back again, I'll probably try a vaginal cream, but for now it seems okay."
— Darla, age 32
"After taking antibiotics, I got a raging vaginal yeast infection. Believe it or not, I'd never had one before, so I went to my doctor to find out what was causing me such misery. She told me to use an over-the-counter vaginal medicine for 3 days since the strong 1-day kind might irritate my already inflamed skin. What a relief that brought me!"
— Carmen, age 52
"I swim year-round, so I have had some experience with yeast infections. So, when I get symptoms, I go right out and get the medicine. It's worked every time."
— Gretchen, age 18
Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.
Reasons to treat a vaginal yeast infection yourself
Reasons not to treat a yeast infection yourself
I'm sure I have a yeast infection.
I'm not sure I have a yeast infection.
I don't want to pay for a doctor visit.
I don't mind paying for a doctor visit.
I'm not worried about the side effects of antifungal medicines.
I'm worried about the side effects of antifungal medicines.
I know I'm not pregnant.
I think I might be pregnant.
My other important reasons:
My other important reasons:
Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.
Treating my yeast infection myself
NOT treating my yeast infection myself
1. Is it okay to treat your yeast infection yourself if you are pregnant?
2. Is it okay to treat a yeast infection yourself if you know you have one (and you are not pregnant)?
3. Is it a good idea to see your doctor if you're not sure your symptoms are caused by a yeast infection?
1. Do you understand the options available to you?
2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?
3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?
1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?
2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.
3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Deborah A. Penava, BA, MD, FRCSC, MPH - Obstetrics and Gynecology|