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Yeast Infection Treatment

Yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs.

A doctor may prescribe medication to treat a yeast infection. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
A doctor may prescribe medication to treat a yeast infection.

Yeast Infection Treatment

Proper yeast infection treatment is essential for preventing the spread of the infection and potentially dangerous complications. Vaginal yeast infections are a common illness among women; however, yeast infections can also occur in the mouth, on the skin and in the bloodstream. Women's Health estimates 75 percent of women get at least one vaginal yeast infection, which is brought on by too much of the Candida albicans fungus. This fungus can develop into the following types of yeast infections:

  • Thrush appears as white patches on the mouth's lining and tongue
  • Esophagitis is irritation in the throat
  • Cutaneous candidiasis is an itchy skin rash
  • Systemic candidiasis invades the bloodstream and can be life-threatening

The treatment for these different types of yeast infections vary, but often involve antifungal medications. Yeast infection treatments encompass over-the-counter medications, prescription medications and natural remedies.

Vaginal Yeast Infection Treatments

A woman should consult with a gynecologist before treating a yeast infection, especially if pregnant or if this is her first infection. Antifungal medications, with or without a prescription, are usually the first course of treatment for adults and children. Most antifungal medications come in more than one dosage form -- cream, suppository, tablet, tampon or ointment -- and are applied only at night. The duration of treatment can range from one night to several weeks, depending on the medication's strength. A woman can apply vaginal creams, such as butoconazole (Femstat 3), miconazole (Monistat) and clotrimazole (Lotrimin), topically in and surrounding the vagina. She should consult a physician about properly applying the other dosage forms.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, as many as 45 percent of women have recurring vaginal yeast infections. Approximately 5 percent of women have 4 or more in a single year. Doctors may prescribe oral medications, such as single dose of fluconazole (Diflucan), when other vaginal medications are ineffective.

Some women choose to use home remedies to treat vaginal yeast infections. These alternative treatments can include inserting a tampon dipped in plain yogurt, or inserting a tampon containing a few drops of diluted tea tree oil to destroy yeast. Garlic has antibacterial, antibiotic and antifungal properties, and is sometimes used as a remedy. Taking a hot bath, increasing fluid intake (particularly of cranberry juice) and wearing cotton undergarments and loose clothing may offer temporary relief from symptoms. However, the Mayo Clinic reports that no studies have been done to confirm the effectiveness of natural therapies.

Treating Oral Yeast Infections

A doctor diagnoses thrush by looking for white patches that may look like cottage cheese on the inside of the mouth and on the tongue. Thrush is common in babies, but sometimes occurs in people with weakened immune systems or is triggered by certain medications. Doctors usually treat thrush with antifungal medications available as a topical cream, liquid or lozenge. Nursing mothers should also speak to a doctor about applying an antifungal cream to their breasts. Cleansing the baby's pacifiers and bottle nipples in equal amounts of water and white vinegar daily is necessary until the infection subsides.

In young children and healthy adults with thrush, it is sometimes possible to control the spread of the fungus naturally. Unsweetened, fresh-culture yogurt can be used to destroy the yeast. Adults might add acidophilus -- sold in drugstores and natural food -- to food or drinks to restore the proper balance of bacteria to the mouth. Acidophilus usually requires refrigeration and may not be visible on the store's shelf.

Esophagitis is one oral yeast infection variety affecting the esophagus that makes swallowing difficult and painful and may require a tissue sample for diagnosis. Doctors usually treat esophagitis with an oral prescription of fluconazole.

Skin Yeast Infection Treatments

The best treatment for cutaneous candidiasis, a fungal infection of the skin, is nystatin powder or an antifungal cream, such as miconazole or clotrimazole. Patients should also endeavor to keep the itchy and irritated areas moisture-free and exposed to fresh air.

Bloodstream Yeast Infection Treatments

A systemic candidiasis yeast infection can be life-threatening because it invades the bloodstream, typically in someone with medical complications such as a low white blood cell count or a newborn with a low birth weight. The infection may originate from a catheter, surgical wounds or another infection in the body. It can spread to various organs, including the brain, heart, liver and eyes. A blood test confirms the infection and then treatment is administered with intravenous fungizone (Amphotericin B), fluconazole (Diflucan) or caspofungin (Cancidas).

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