When To Use Over-The-Counter Yeast Infection Medications

Over-the-counter remedies for yeast infections serve a valuable role but don't forget that your doctor does too.

Determining when to use over-the-counter medicines, when to go to the doctor, and how to balance both ends of the spectrum can be a tricky thing. It can be particularly tricky when dealing with health issues in our most private places. Vaginal antifungal products for feminine hygiene certainly fall into that category.

Like many over-the-counter products in the drug stores and medicine aisles, they can serve a valuable purpose.

For example, if you are taking antibiotics for any sort of illness, you may be at increased risk of developing vaginal yeast infections. If you are taking antibiotics, therefore, you might want to consider using an antifungal product as a preventive measure to fend off a potential yeast infection. In fact, if you know you are prone to yeast infections while on antibiotics (from your previous experiences), consider asking your doctor to set you up with a prescription vaginal antifungal product. Don't combine a prescription antifungal with an over-the-counter one without consulting the doctor first, as too much of any medication can often be a bad thing.

Antifungal vaginal medications can be useful for treating an existing case of yeast infection, as well, and women commonly purchase these products in order to relieve the very irritating symptoms of yeast infections. There are many options from which to choose, from creams to tablets to suppositories. And the unpronounceable names of the medications themselves run a wide range as well (seeming to share only a fondness for "zole", as in butoconazole, miconazole, clotrimazole and tioconazole).

However, also remember that no matter how well you know (or think you know) your body, don't always trust your instincts in terms of dealing with a vaginal problem. The symptoms of a yeast infection may be similar or even identical to the symptoms you might suffer from bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis. Since symptoms alone don't tell the whole story, you should consider seeing your physician for an accurate diagnosis before using over-the-counter products, particularly if they don't relieve a problem promptly.

Also remember that various over-the-counter products may contain other substances besides the antifungal agent, such as antihistamines or topical anesthetics. Such products are there to help relieve symptoms like itching and swelling, but that also means they may help to mask those symptoms. In other words, you may think the antifungal part of the product is doing its job, when in fact you are simply reducing your irritation and thinking the problem is gone when it isn't.

Women who have chronic yeast infections (that is, they never go away or come back frequently) sometimes need to be treated with vaginal creams for extended periods of time, and that's where a doctor's advice can come in very handy. Also, there are effective oral medications on the market that your doctor may be able to prescribe for you if necessary, and if you don't like creams and suppositories.

Another reason to consult your doctor is that there may be reasons the yeast infections keep coming back, and you may be able to reduce outbreaks or prevent them entirely with some lifestyle changes or by treating other conditions that contribute to yeast infections.

In closing, here are a few guidelines when in doubt about whether to go it alone or see the doctor:

If you have other symptoms, such as vaginal swelling or unusual bleeding, or if your vaginal discharge has a foul-smelling odor, you should strongly consider seeing the doctor.

If vaginal yeast infection symptoms get worse, if they continue for a week or longer despite self-care, or they come back within two months after they go away, see a doctor.

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