Vaginal medications for vaginal yeast infections

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
butoconazole Femstat
clotrimazole/betamethasone dipropionate Lotrisone
miconazole Monistat 1 ovule [1200 mg, 1-time treatment], Monistat 3 ovule or cream [400 mg, once a day for 3 days], Monistat 7 ovule or cream [100 mg, once a day for 7 days], Monistat-Derm
terconazole Terazol
tioconazole Monistat 1-Day ovule [6.5%], Vagistat-1

The following vaginal medicines are available in combination with steroid creams for itching or inflammation. These are usually not needed to treat a vaginal yeast infection and are available only by prescription.

Generic Name Brand Name
clotrimazole Gyne-Lotrimin 7 [1%, once a day for 7 days], Mycelex-7 [1%, once a day for 7 days]
nystatin/triamcinolone acetonide Mycolog-II

Vaginal antifungal medicines are:

  • Often available without a prescription.
  • Inserted into the vagina at bedtime, and some may also be applied to the genital area (vulva).
  • Used with an applicator that supplies the correct amount of medicine. Vaginal tablets and suppositories are also sold with an applicator to help insert the medicine into the vagina.
  • Able to be used externally. Yeast organisms can grow on the genital skin. Small amounts of some vaginal creams (such as miconazole [Monistat-Derm], clotrimazole/betamethasone dipropionate [Lotrisone], or nystatin/triamcinolone acetonide [Mycolog-II]) may reduce symptoms.

Treatment length varies depending on which vaginal medicine you use. Single-day treatments are stronger and more convenient. But you may need longer treatment for a severe infection.

Generally, symptoms will diminish before the medicine has completely eliminated the yeast infection. If treatment is discontinued before it is completed, the yeast infection may return, so it is important to complete the full medication treatment.

How It Works

Vaginal antifungal medicine kills yeast cells by destroying their cell membranes.

Why It Is Used

Vaginal antifungal treatment is recommended for:

  • Occasional yeast infections.
  • Yeast infection during pregnancy.
  • Recurrent vaginal yeast infection. An initial treatment using oral and/or vaginal medicine is followed by 6 months to 1 year of less frequent maintenance treatment.1

Vaginal medication treatment in pregnancy

Vaginal yeast infections commonly occur during pregnancy, probably related to the high estrogen levels. Consistently high estrogen is the most likely reason that treatment takes longer to cure a yeast infection during pregnancy.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that only vaginal medicines, such as cream or vaginal suppositories, be used for yeast infection treatment during pregnancy. Treatment takes longer than usual during pregnancy: 7 days of medication is recommended.2

If you are pregnant, do not use these nonprescription medicines without first discussing your condition with your doctor.

How Well It Works

All antifungal treatments have an 80% to 90% yeast infection cure rate.3, 2

About 30% to 40% of women develop another yeast infection after they stop their maintenance therapy with antifungal medicine.1

Side Effects

Side effects of vaginal medicines are generally mild. Local burning and irritation are most common with the higher-strength medicines. Such skin reactions (including hives) can be distressing if the skin is inflamed.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Talk to your doctor if your symptoms continue or recur within 2 months of vaginal nonprescription medication treatment.

Women who experience four or more vaginal yeast infections a year should be evaluated for other conditions, such as diabetes.

Vaginal yeast infections appear to occur more often and may be more severe among women who have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection than among women who do not have HIV. Women with HIV who have a vaginal yeast infection should follow the same treatment regimens as women without HIV.2

Treatment of sex partners does not typically prevent recurrences and is not recommended. But sexual partners with symptoms should be evaluated and treated appropriately.

Vaginal boric acid capsules can also be used to treat recurrent vaginal yeast infections, particularly those that don't respond to antifungal treatment. Do not use boric acid if you are pregnant.1, 3

Check with your doctor or pharmacist to see whether you can get a generic form of a prescription medicine. Many generic medicines are now available to treat vaginal yeast infections. They are often less expensive than brand-name medicines.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Eschenbach DA (2003). Vaginitis section of Pelvic infections and sexually transmitted diseases. In JR Scott et al., eds., Danforth's Obstetrics and Gynecology, 9th ed., pp. 585–589. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2006). Vulvovaginal candidiasis section of Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2006. MMWR, 55(RR-11): 54–56.
  3. Kessel KV, et al. (2003). Common complementary and alternative therapies for yeast vaginitis and bacterial vaginosis: A systematic review. Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey, 58(5): 351–358.

Last Updated: June 17, 2008

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