How to get relief for a vaginal yeast infection

Truthfully, a vaginal yeast infection can be unpleasant. It causes itching and burning, which can make the vagina feel pretty sore. Going to the bathroom or having intercourse can become painful too.

Most women will get a yeast infection at some point in their life, and half of them will have 2 or more. They’re caused by an overgrowth of the fungus candida, explains Taniqua Miller, M.D., Fellow of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a board-certified ob-gyn and medical consultant who offers virtual care at HerMD.1

“The vagina has a whole host of microbes, bacteria and yeast, all of which usually live in harmony due to the pH balance of the vagina,” says Dr. Miller. “But if something disrupts the vaginal environment, there may be an impact on the yeast in the vagina.”

What causes a yeast infection?

Changes in the hormonal cycle, medications (such as antibiotics), vaginal sprays, a weakened immune system, diabetes and sexual intercourse are just some of the things that might disrupt the vaginal balance.1

When that happens, you might notice a white discharge — either watery or clumpy like cottage cheese. That may be in addition to other symptoms such as redness, painful urination, and itching or burning.2

Ways to get relief

While mild yeast infections can clear up on their own, the symptoms generally are uncomfortable — so you’ll likely be eager to get fast relief. Here are some good ways to soothe a vaginal yeast infection and feel better.

Check in with your provider

“Some people assume that if they have itching and redness, then it’s a yeast infection,” says Dr. Miller. That may not be the case. “You want to make sure that you’re ruling out sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and other things.” These STIs can have similar symptoms to a yeast infection, she explains.

For women who have never had a yeast infection before, or for those who have a new sexual partner, it’s especially important to make sure your symptoms are definitely those of a yeast infection, Dr. Miller advises. For example, yeast infections don’t generally have a strong smell. But other infections with similar symptoms, such as bacterial vaginosis, may have a foul or fishy odor.3 So talk to your provider if you notice this.

If you regularly experience yeast infections, check in with your provider to see if there is any reason that they can pinpoint, like an underlying health condition. You may just be more susceptible to getting them, explains Dr. Miller.

Using estrogen-based birth control could make you more prone to these types of infections. For women who get yeast infections often or your symptoms get worse, your doctor may suggest a topical cream or pill.1

Go for a cream

Topical antifungal yeast medications are available without a prescription. These are for women who have had a mild case of yeast infection before. Topical OTC medications may also a good option when:2

  • Symptoms are mild and you don’t have pelvic pain or a fever
  • You’re not pregnant
  • There’s no concern of a sexually transmitted infection

You can find OTC creams or suppositories in 1-day, 3-day and 7-day versions. While the shorter treatments are stronger, Dr. Miller suggests using a 7-day option. “It’s going to be a little bit gentler on the vagina,” she says.

It’s important to use these OTC medications as directed and to finish the treatment, even if you feel better.2

Keep things dry

Stick to cotton underwear, or ones with a cotton crotch. Unlike synthetic fabrics, cotton is breathable, meaning it allows air to circulate in this area and doesn’t trap moisture. Also, be sure to change out of damp or sweaty clothes as soon as possible, such as after vigorous exercise.5

Say no to sex (temporarily)

Sex may further irritate your vagina and vulva. You can also spread a yeast infection to your sexual partner, no matter which gender your partner is.1 Wait to have sex until the symptoms have subsided or your treatment is done.

Use plain soap and water

Avoid douching, which will continue to disrupt the vaginal pH balance and can cause your infection spread to your uterus and other organs.6 And stay away from scented products, which may be irritating.1

While yeast infections can’t always be avoided, they typically respond quickly to treatment. And simple lifestyle tweaks can help you feel better as you’re healing.

Already a member?

Sign in or register on your plan website to see personalized benefit details and resources to help you manage your plan and health.