How Is a Yeast Infection Treated?

woman taking a pill

eternalcreative / Getty

A yeast infection is a type of fungal infection that occurs when Candida yeast overgrows on the skin or inside the mouth, throat, or vagina. Depending on where you have an infection, yeast infection symptoms can include inflamed and itchy skin; white patches in the mouth; or thick, white vaginal discharge.

Yeast infections can be cured by using antifungal treatments. These medications can come in the form of prescription or over-the-counter creams, vaginal suppositories, and oral tablets. Yeast infection treatments help kill or reduce yeast overgrowth so your body can get rid of the infection and unpleasant irritation and itchiness. 

Before treating the infection on your own, make sure to see a healthcare provider to confirm you actually have a yeast infection. If you suspect a vaginal yeast infection, a general healthcare provider or gynecologist can perform an examination and help oversee your treatment. A general healthcare provider can help treat other common yeast infections too.

Treatments by Condition Type

Yeast infection treatments are relatively similar across the different types of yeast infections because the infections always require antifungals. However, the type of antifungal medication and treatment duration can vary depending on the type, area, and severity of your yeast infection.

Vaginal Yeast Infections 

Vaginal yeast infections occur when the natural yeast in the vagina overgrows and causes an infection. Medications typically used to treat vaginal yeast infections are part of the azole drug class of antifungals, including:

  • Lotrimin (clotrimazole)
  • Micatin (miconazole) 
  • Trosyd (tioconazole) 
  • Terazol 7 (terconazole)
  • Gynazole 1 (butoconazole)
  • Diflucan (fluconazole)

Lotrimin, Micatin, and Trosyd come in an over-the-counter vaginal cream or suppository. Suppositories are small capsules of medicine you can insert into your vagina with an applicator, then the capsules dissolve and release the treatment. These medications are available in one-, three-, and seven-day treatments.

Terazol 7 and Gynazole 1 are prescription options that are similar to over-the-counter treatments. However, prescription treatments are typically used longer and are often used to treat more severe vaginal yeast infections. While a reaction isn’t usually common, topical azoles like these can cause side effects like rash, irritation, and burning. 

Diflucan, a single-dose oral medication, is more effective for severe yeast infections or if you're prone to recurrent yeast infections. However, this medication, if used in high dosages for extended periods of time, is unsafe during pregnancy because it may harm a developing baby. Diflucan can also interact with some medications, such as blood thinners like warfarin. Other side effects may include mild headache, rash, or upset stomach.

If you experience recurring vaginal yeast infections, your healthcare provider may suggest using a boric acid suppository which is inserted into the vagina. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not currently approve the suppositories for this purpose, the research found that combining antifungal treatment and boric acid suppositories twice a week helped treat recurrent yeast infections.

Skin Yeast Infections 

Skin-related yeast infections often occur on skin folds since yeast thrives in moist, dark areas. The infections can also occur in the groin area, penis, or fingernails. 

The first part of treatment is to keep the infected skin as dry and clean as possible. The next step is to apply a cream azole antifungal to the infected area for about two weeks. These medicated creams include:

  • Micatin (miconazole) 
  • Lotrimin (clotrimazole)
  • Nizoral (ketoconazole)

Nystop (nystatin)—a different type of antifungal called polyenes—may also be applied if the infection is close to a wetter area like your mouth. Diflucan and Sporanox (itraconazole) oral tablets may also be prescribed for more severe skin infections.

If you have an uncircumcised penis and are dealing with recurrent yeast infections in that area, your healthcare provider may first suggest certain hygiene practices like cleansing underneath the foreskin daily. Other factors, such as the foreskin being too tight, may be causing the infections. In this case, your healthcare provider can discuss different treatment options with you.

Oral Thrush

Yeast that overgrows in your mouth or throat can cause a yeast infection known as oral thrush. This yeast infection causes white patches in the mouth and a sore throat. Oral thrush can be treated with azoles or polyenes like:

  • Micatin (miconazole)
  • Diflucan (fluconazole)
  • Nystop (nystatin)

Micatin and Nystop liquids are the most common treatments for thrush and are applied to the mouth or throat for seven to 14 days, about four times a day. Nystop tablets are also approved to treat mouth and throat yeast infections. These are taken three to four times a day. 

Nystop may cause gastrointestinal side effects like diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain. Serious side effects can include a mouth rash, hives, and trouble breathing or swallowing. 

Your healthcare provider may also prescribe oral Diflucan tablets to treat severe oral thrush or infections that don't improve with topical liquids. 

Yeast Diaper Rash

Sometimes, a diaper rash can actually be a yeast infection. These rashes often appear as scaly yellow or red patches on the diaper area and skin folds that can blister. 

To treat a yeast diaper rash, you’ll need to change diapers often, try to keep the area dry, and apply an antifungal polyene or azole cream like:

  • Nystop (nystatin)
  • Lotrimin (clotrimazole)
  • Micatin (niconazole)
  • Nizoral (ketoconazole)

Nystop is a prescription cream that is usually applied four times a day for two weeks. If the infection doesn’t resolve in about three days, your healthcare provider may recommend using an azole antifungal instead. 

Lotrimin and Micatin are available over the counter, and Nizoral is a prescription cream. These are usually applied twice a day for up to 10 days. Nizoral can cause serious side effects, including hives, rash, and difficulty breathing and swallowing.

If your child has a severe yeast rash, your healthcare provider may also suggest using a topical steroid ointment such as 1% hydrocortisone.

Esophageal Candidiasis 

People with a weakened immune system are also susceptible to yeast infections in the esophagus, the tube between the stomach and throat. Since this is considered a more severe yeast infection, treatment is never topical. Instead, esophageal yeast infections are treated with oral or intravenous (IV) medication like:

  • Diflucan (fluconazole) oral tablets or IVs
  • Sporanox (itraconazole) tablets
  • Vfend (voriconazole) tablets
  • Mycamine (micafungin) IVs

Diflucan tablets are the most common treatment prescribed to treat the infection. These are typically taken for 14 to 21 days. If it's too uncomfortable to swallow medication, you can also get a daily Diflucan IV until you can tolerate oral medications.

In some cases, your healthcare provider may treat you with a Mycamine daily IV for about two weeks. They may also prescribe once-daily Sporanox or twice-daily Vfend tablets for 14 to 21 days. 

Mycamine is part of a newer antifungal drug class called echinocandins. These may help kill the yeast that is immune to azole treatments. They also cause fewer side effects and have fewer drug interactions compared to some azoles.

Invasive Candidiasis 

Invasive candidiasis is a yeast overgrowth that invades your bloodstream or internal organs. While severe, this infection is rare among healthy adults. 

People who are already more susceptible to infection, like people in hospitals, are more at risk for invasive candidiasis like candidemia (a blood yeast infection). Invasive candidiasis is usually treated with IV antifungal treatments like:

  • Echinocandin drug class, such as Cancidas (caspofungin) and Mycamine (micafungin)
  • Diflucan (fluconazole)
  • Abelcet (amphotericin B) 

Diflucan is usually the first treatment of choice. Blood yeast infections are treated for about two weeks until symptoms are gone and tests no longer detect Candida yeasts in the blood. Invasive candidiasis that affects the bones, joints, heart, or central nervous system is treated for longer durations.

Some Candida yeast species have become resistant to common treatments like Diflucan, meaning the infection won’t clear as well with this medication. In this case, healthcare providers may choose to use a medication like an echinocandin IV instead. This medication behaves differently than azoles and can destroy some azole-resistant yeasts.

Abelcet, a polyene antifungal, is only approved to treat life-threatening fungal infections. This is never the first treatment choice because the drug can severely damage your body. Studies have shown about 30% of adults deal with kidney injuries after Abelcet treatment.

Living With and Managing Yeast Infections

Yeast infections are uncomfortable, but unless left untreated, they typically aren’t a health emergency. Your healthcare provider can recommend or prescribe the right antifungal treatment for your symptoms. Your infection, along with any symptoms, should clear up after you finish the treatment.

In rare cases, yeast infections that become too severe can move inside the body and affect your blood and internal organs. These invasive yeast infections can be life-threatening if not treated. However, people with weakened immune systems and hospitalized patients are more likely to deal with invasive yeast infections. 

If you experience four or more infections per year, you may be dealing with recurrent yeast infections. Research estimates about 5-9% of women experience recurrent vaginal yeast infections. Sometimes a different type of yeast that doesn’t respond well to your treatment may cause these infections.

Overuse of fluconazole (one of the most effective and used treatments for recurrent vaginal yeast and oral infections) has started to create some resistance to this medication. When the yeast becomes resistant to a medication, that treatment becomes less effective against the infection. This can cause the infection to return more easily. 

Underlying health conditions like diabetes and diseases that weaken the immune system, like HIV, can also cause recurrent vaginal, oral, and skin yeast infections.

If you are experiencing recurrent infections, a healthcare provider may suggest certain hygiene practices or lifestyle changes that can help. For example, changing out of sweaty clothes after a workout and avoiding hot baths can help prevent vaginal yeast infections. They may also be able to advise other treatments that can help reduce recurrent yeast infections. 

A Quick Review

Yeast infection treatment depends on the type and severity of your yeast infection. Generally, yeast infections are treated with an over-the-counter or prescription antifungal taken orally as a tablet or applied topically as a cream. In severe cases of invasive yeast infections, people are given antifungal IV treatments. 

Even though over-the-counter medications are available, contact your healthcare provider if you suspect a yeast infection. They can help you determine the right treatment plan. You should also reach out if your yeast infection doesn't get better after treatment. Your healthcare provider can help you find an alternative medication. 

Was this page helpful?
24 Sources uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Candidiasis.

  2. Pappas P, Kauffman C, Andes D, et al. Clinical practice guideline for the management of candidiasis: 2016 update by the infectious diseases society of America. Clin Infect Dis. 2016;62,4,15,e1–e50. doi:10.1093/cid/civ933

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC).

  4. Sobel JD. Patient education: Vagina yeast infection (beyond the basics). In: Barbieri RL, Eckler K, eds. UpToDate. UpToDate; 2023.

  5. MedlinePlus. Miconazole topical

  6. Medline Plus. Fluconazole.

  7. Powell A, Ghanem KG, Rogers L, et al. Clinicians’ use of intravaginal boric acid maintenance therapy for recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis and bacterial vaginosis. Sex Transm Dis. 2019;46(12):810-812. doi:10.1097/OLQ.0000000000001063

  8. Hay R. Therapy of skin, hair and nail fungal infections. J Fungi (Basel). 2018;4(3):99. doi:10.3390/jof4030099

  9. Morris BJ, Krieger JN. Penile inflammatory skin disorders and the preventive role of circumcision. Int J Prev Med. 2017;8:32. doi:10.4103/ijpvm.IJPVM_377_16

  10. Quindós G, Gil-Alonso S, Marcos-Arias C, et al. Therapeutic tools for oral candidiasis: Current and new antifungal drugs. Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal. 2019;24(2):e172-e180. doi:10.4317/medoral.22978

  11. MedlinePlus. Nystatin.

  12. MedlinePlus. Diaper rash.

  13. Horii KA. Patient education: Diaper rash in infants and children (beyond the basics). In: Corona R, Moise LL, Drutz JE, eds. UpToDate. UpToDate; 2022.

  14. Benitez Ojeda AB, Mendex MD. Diaper dermatitis. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022.

  15. MedlinePlus. Ketoconazole topical.

  16. Robertson KD, Nagra N, Mehta D. Esophageal candidiasis. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022.

  17. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Candida infections of the mouth, throat, and esophagus.

  18. Nett JE, Andes DR. Antifungal agents: Spectrum of activity, pharmacology, and clinical indications. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2016;30(1):51-83. doi:10.1016/j.idc.2015.10.012

  19. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Treatment for invasive candidiasis.

  20. Yeoh SF, Lee TJ, Chew KL, Lin S, Yeo D, Setia S. Echinocandins for management of invasive candidiasis in patients with liver disease and liver transplantation. Infect Drug Resist. 2018;11:805-819. doi:10.2147/IDR.S165676

  21. Ben-Ami R. Treatment of invasive candidiasis: A narrative review. J Fungi (Basel). 2018;4(3):97. doi:10.3390/jof4030097

  22. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of invasive candidiasis.

  23. Magill SS, O’Leary E, Janelle S, et al. Changes in prevalence of health care–associated infections in U.S. hospitals. N Engl J Med. 2018; 379(18):1732-44.

  24. Office on Women's Health. Vaginal yeast infections.

Related Articles