Yeast infection left untreated

OTC Treatment
Fortunately, most yeast infections are not serious. Left untreated, yeast infections will usually go away on their own, but the severe itching can be hard to tolerate for some. Fortunately, the infections respond well to over-the-counter antifungal creams or suppositories, so if you’re sure you have a yeast infection, go ahead and try an OTC yeast infection medication like Monistat or yeast arrest suppositories, which contain boric acid, a mild antiseptic. However, pregnant women should avoid boric acid.

Home Remedies
Some people find soaking in an apple cider vinegar bath offers relief, as the vinegar can help restore normal acidity to the vagina. Add two cups of vinegar to a shallow warm—not hot—bath, and soak for 15 minutes. Make sure you dry yourself thoroughly before getting dressed. Every body is different, but most women will see some improvement after two or three soaks.

Applying plain yogurt to the area may help to restore balance and reduce irritation. Using only plain yogurt with active cultures, once or twice a day, rub a few tablespoons’ worth around the outside of the vagina to quell irritation, or insert the same amount into the vagina. You can also dip a tampon in the yogurt, let it soak for a few minutes, and then insert it.

It’s safe to try these natural remedies before you opt for the over-the-counter medications, and they are perfectly safe to use in addition to other treatments, even for pregnant women.

Prescription
For chronic yeast infections, prescription strength boric acid is sometimes recommended, but it has to be obtained from a pharmacy that compounds drugs. The gelatin capsules are inserted into the vagina at night for two weeks, and serve as both an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory agent.

Q: I have a thick vaginal discharge, and I feel burning throughout the day. Could I have a yeast infection?

A: Maybe. It’s possible you have one of several conditions. With a yeast infection, most often caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans, you might notice a clumpy white discharge, itching, burning, and redness of the labia.

Another possibility is bacterial vaginosis (BV), caused by an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina. Although BV often has no symptoms, you might notice a thin, grayish discharge, itching, and burning — and a distinctive fishy odor, especially after sexual intercourse.

Getting the right diagnosis is important. Left untreated, BV is not only unpleasant but could increase your risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, pregnancy complications, and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes. And while yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter topical or prescription oral medications, BV is treated with either vaginal or oral antibiotics, available only by prescription.

Which do you have? Don’t diagnose yourself. See your doctor right away. More might be going on than you think.

Can Yeast Infections Go Away on Their Own?

Table of Contents

Getting a yeast infection is inconvenient and can often come at the worst time. You might be wondering: Can a yeast infection go away on its own? How long will a yeast infection last without treatment? Read on to better understand yeast infections and what to do about it.

Will My Yeast Infection Go Away On It’s Own?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. The length and type of treatment for a yeast infection varies greatly from person to person and depends on the individual symptoms and severity. Some mild yeast infections will go away on there own in a few days. For more severe yeast infections it could take up to two weeks to clear without treatment, meanwhile you may be stuck dealing with itchy and painful symptoms.

By forgoing diagnosis and treatment you are also at risk of falsely self diagnosing. Yeast infection symptoms can also be symptoms of certain STDs that require treatment. We’ll talk more about this later, first let’s cover the basics.

What is a Yeast Infection?

A yeast infection, also known as candida vulvovaginitis, is a common infection that 3 out of 4 women will experience throughout their lives. Yeast infections are not considered Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

They can develop for a variety of reasons. Yeast infections most commonly refer to vaginal infections, but can also occur in other places in your body, such as your mouth or armpits. For our purposes, we’ll stick to vaginal yeast infections (though men can get yeast infections too).

Every woman’s vagina has a delicate balance of live bacteria and yeast cells. When this balance is thrown off, yeast cells can multiply, which often leads to a yeast infection. Yeast infections can develop because of lifestyle habits, environmental changes, skin-to-skin contact with someone that has a yeast infection, health conditions such as diabetes, and even other cyclical changes in a woman’s body.

The most common bacteria found in a healthy vagina are Lactobacillus acidophilus and help keep yeast levels in check. These bacteria moderate the growth of yeast cells and help susceptible parts of your body fight off infection.

You will most likely notice when this balance is thrown off because overproduction of yeast can cause an array of uncomfortable symptoms further listed below, which indicate a yeast infection. Treatments for yeast infections are easy to access and use.

While yeast infections may go away on their own, treatment is usually a preferable option, as the symptoms can be uncomfortable to deal with. Treatments for yeast infections are easy to access and use. By choosing not to treat your yeast infection, it may worsen and create a bigger problem.

How Do I Know If I Have a Yeast Infection?

The following are the most common symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection:

What does a yeast infection feel like?

  • Stinging sensations in the vagina or vulva
  • Persistent itchiness in the genital area
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pain during urination
  • Stinging sensations in the vagina or vulva
  • Pain during intercourse

What does a yeast infection look like?

  • Thick, lumpy vaginal discharge
  • Redness in the vagina and vulva
  • Swelling of the labia and vulva

What does a yeast infection smell like?

  • Strong, musty odor
  • Fishy, sour odor
  • Otherwise abnormal smell

It is important to note that the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are like those of other STIs and genital infections. To be sure that you are experiencing a yeast infection, you should contact a doctor. Treatment for yeast infections are relatively straightforward, but by self-treating, you may inadvertently make the problem worse.

A PlushCare doctor can help advise by phone or video chat which steps to take and even prescribe necessary medication, (yes, an online doctor can prescribe medication!). To read more about how online doctor appointments work, including insurance and pricing information, click here.

Yeast Infection Treatment Options: What You Need to Know

Many women wonder will a yeast infection go away on its own? The answer depends on how serious it is. If you experience mild versions of the above symptoms, you may choose to let the yeast infection run its course, or use a home remedy to relieve your symptoms.

However, if your symptoms are uncomfortable and last more than 3 days, you may want to speak with your doctor and decide on a treatment plan.

OTC Treatment Options

  • Non-prescription vaginal creams and suppositories – Common brands are Monistat, Vagisil, and AZO Yeast, which contain ingredients designed to kill yeast upon contact. (Refrain from using condoms as a main form of birth control while on these such regimens, as the ingredients may also weaken latex). Creams are applied topically while suppositories are inserted into the vagina where they dissolve. These medicines can be purchased at any drug store and come in a variety of strengths to lengthen or shorten a treatment period.

Prescription Treatment Options

  • Prescription anti fungal pills – Anti fungal pills such as Diflucan are only available with a prescription, and require one pill to kill most yeast infections. For persistent yeast infections, your doctor may recommend you use this method.

Home Treatment Options

Many women prefer to use home remedies to get rid of yeast infections, especially if they have had a yeast infection before. Consult your doctor before you decide to go this route. Home remedies typically revolve around a common anti fungal property. This include:

  • Oil of Oregano – oil of oregano has strong antifungal powers and is taken orally (in a carrier oil, or highly diluted – NEVER in essential oil form) to ward off yeast infections.
  • Apple cider vinegar – apple cider vinegar can be taken orally to strengthen your immune system. For yeast infections, try taking a warm bath with half of a cup of apple cider vinegar dissolved in the water.
  • Coconut Oil – the gentle, yet powerful antifungal properties of coconut oil can be used topically to treat yeast infections.
  • Apple cider vinegar – apple cider vinegar can be taken orally to strengthen your immune system. For yeast infections, try taking a warm bath with half of a cup of apple cider vinegar dissolved in the water.
  • Plain Greek Yogurt – greek yogurt that is free of added sugar can be used topically to stimulate the growth of bacteria which will fend off yeast. Using yogurt with added sugar will usually make the problem worse.

Does a Yeast Infection Go Away By Itself? Risks of Opting out of Treatment

  • It may not be what you think – Yeast infection symptoms are like those of other genital infections and sexually transmitted infections. Before you choose not to treat the problem, you should know exactly what it is.
  • It could get worse – Even if your symptoms start out mild, choosing not to treat them could make the problem worse. Especially if the cause of your yeast infection is environmental, or because of a lifestyle habit, not treating yourself could make your body more vulnerable to other infections.
  • It could infect your partner – Choosing to opt out of treatment when you have a sexual partner can cause problems for both of you. Yeast infections can be transmitted back and forth through genital contact. Without treatment and with continued sexual contact, your partner may develop a yeast infection. The infection may continue to be transmitted until one of you seeks treatment.

In mild cases of yeast infection, the problem may go away by itself. However, without knowing the cause of your yeast infection, choosing not to treat your infection may make it worse. You should contact your doctor before you decide to let a yeast infection go away on its own.

How to Know If Your Yeast Infection is Going Away

With or without treatment, a normal yeast infection should go away within 3-7 days. To know if your yeast infection is indeed going away, you should experience these stages, where you will notice:

  • 1st you will notice: Discharge should return to a normal consistency and smell.
  • 2nd you will notice: Itching should go away, which will alleviate much of the discomfort associated with the infection.
  • 3rd you will notice: Any rash, swelling, or redness should stop. Your genitals should return to a healthy appearance and feel.

Other forms of yeast infection, like a yeast infection of the breast (during breastfeeding), may take longer to completely go away. Talk to your doctor to make sure you are choosing the right treatment option for your yeast infection.

How Long Does a Yeast Infection Last Without Treatment?

Without treatment, a yeast infection should go away within 3-7 days. Your symptoms may be relatively mild and will gradually improve. If it becomes extremely uncomfortable to sit for extended periods of time, or to have sexual intercourse, you should consider seeking treatment instead.

Signs That Your Yeast Infection is Something Else

If you decide to let yeast infections go away on their own, you should be especially wary of these symptoms, which may indicate a more serious problem. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor and seek treatment immediately.

  • Vaginal discharge with a sour, pungent odor – may indicate a Sexually Transmitted Infection or Disease, including herpes and trichomoniasis.
  • Itching near your anus – may be a sign of hemorrhoids or other genital infection.
  • Blood in your stool/near your vulva – also a symptom of hemorrhoids. Contact your doctor immediately should you experience this.
  • Fishy, white or gray discharge – a strong odor associated with thin white or grey discharge could indicate Bacterial Vaginosis, a bacterial infection of the vagina.
  • Prolonged itchiness associated with use of a new hygiene product or detergent – allergic reactions to ingredients in soaps or detergents could cause itchiness in the vaginal area. Changing your hygiene regimen may relieve these symptoms.

Do What’s Right for You

Your genital health can be a sensitive subject. You should only opt out of treatment if you have experienced a yeast infection before and are comfortable with your body’s response, or if your symptoms are very mild and you have received an official diagnosis from a doctor. Even in these cases, it is best to be cautious and ask your doctor about your yeast infection and how you should treat it. The sooner you know, the sooner you can get back to a healthy life.

Get Treated Online | How PlushCare Works

In today’s age of unpredictable waiting rooms and swamped doctors, online services like PlushCare save you time and stress. All our visits with patients are confidential and convenient and require as little as a phone or video consultation. This can be especially helpful for addressing personal health problems, especially when they are of a sensitive nature.

Our team of medical professionals has extensive experience consulting with patients about their treatment options, including both over the counter and prescription medicines, and can help you understand which method is right for you.

To learn more about online doctor visits read our article How Do Online Doctor Visits Work?

Read more from our Yeast Infection series:

  • Symptoms of Yeast Infection in Women
  • How Long Do Yeast Infections Last?
  • Can Sex Cause a Yeast Infection?

Sources

  • Medical News Today. How long does a yeast infection take to go away. Accessed on September 23, 2019, at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321342.php
  • University of Michigan Health. Vaginal yeast infection, should I treat myself? Accessed September 23, 2019, at https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/tn9593

Signs of a Complicated Infection

Sometimes the symptoms of your yeast infection can be more serious and require extra care. You might need a longer course of treatment or a plan to keep the infection from coming back.

You can develop a more complicated infection if:

  • You’re pregnant
  • You have uncontrolled diabetes
  • Your immune system is weakened by medications you’re taking or a health condition like HIV

Your infection might also be more complicated if it’s caused by a type of fungus that’s not the kind that usually causes yeast infections.

Signs of a complicated infection include:

  • Severe symptoms (such as redness, swelling, and itching so severe that it causes tears or sores)
  • A yeast infection that occurs four or more times in a year

If your symptoms are severe or they don’t get better after treatment with an over-the-counter cream or suppository, call your doctor.

Here are some other reasons to make an appointment:

  • You’ve developed other kinds of symptoms.
  • This is your first yeast infection.
  • You’re not sure whether you have a yeast infection or something else.

Oral thrush in adults

Oral thrush is a fungal infection of the mouth. It is not contagious and is usually successfully treated with antifungal medication.

It is also called oral candidosis (or candiasis) because it is caused by a group of yeasts called Candida.

Symptoms of oral thrush can include:

  • white patches (plaques) in the mouth that can often be wiped off, leaving behind red areas that may bleed slightly
  • loss of taste or an unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • redness inside the mouth and throat
  • cracks at the corners of the mouth
  • a painful, burning sensation in the mouth

In some cases, the symptoms of oral thrush can make eating and drinking difficult.

When to seek medical advice

Speak to your GP if you develop symptoms of oral thrush. If left untreated, the symptoms will often persist and your mouth will continue to feel uncomfortable.

In severe cases that are left untreated, there is also a risk of the infection spreading further into your body, which can be serious.

Your GP will usually be able to diagnose oral thrush simply by examining your mouth. Sometimes they may also recommend blood tests to look for certain conditions associated with oral thrush, such as diabetes and nutritional deficiencies.

What causes oral thrush?

Low numbers of the fungus Candida are naturally found in the mouth and digestive system of most people. They don’t usually cause any problems, but can lead to oral thrush if they multiply.

There are a number of reasons why this may happen, including:

  • taking a course of antibiotics, particularly over a long period or at a high dose
  • taking inhaled corticosteroid medication for asthma
  • wearing dentures (false teeth), particularly if they don’t fit properly
  • having poor oral hygiene
  • having a dry mouth, either because of a medical condition or a medication you are taking
  • smoking
  • having chemotherapy or radiotherapy to treat cancer

Babies, young children and elderly people are at a particularly high risk of developing oral thrush, as are people with certain underlying conditions, including diabetes, an iron deficiency or vitamin B12 deficiency, an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) and HIV.

As most people already have Candida fungi living in their mouth, oral thrush is not contagious. This means it cannot be passed to others.

Treating oral thrush

Oral thrush can usually be successfully treated with antifungal medicines. These usually come in the form of gels or liquid that you apply directly inside your mouth (topical medication), although tablets or capsules are sometimes used.

Topical medication will usually need to be used several times a day for around 7 to 14 days. Tablet or capsules are usually taken once daily.

These medications don’t often have side effects, although some can cause nausea (feeling sick), vomiting, bloating, abdominal (tummy) pain and diarrhoea.

If antibiotics or corticosteroids are thought to be causing your oral thrush, the medicine – or the way it is delivered – may need to be changed or the dosage reduced.

Preventing oral thrush

There are a number of things you can do to reduce your chances of developing oral thrush, including:

  • rinsing your mouth after meals
  • brushing your teeth twice a day with a toothpaste that contains fluoride and interdental cleaning (flossing) regularly
  • visiting your dentist regularly for check-ups, even if you wear dentures or have no natural teeth
  • removing your dentures every night, cleaning them with paste or soap and water before soaking them in a solution of water and denture-cleaning tablets
  • brushing your gums, tongue and inside your mouth with a soft brush twice a day if you wear dentures or have no or few natural teeth
  • visiting your dentist if your dentures do not fit properly
  • stopping smoking if you smoke
  • rinsing your mouth with water and spitting it out after using a corticosteroid inhaler, and using a spacer (a plastic cylinder that attaches to the inhaler) when you take your medicine
  • ensuring that any underlying condition you have, such as diabetes, is well controlled

If you have a condition or are receiving treatment that could put you at a high risk of developing oral thrush, your doctor may recommend taking a course of antifungal medication to prevent this happening.

Read more about taking care of your oral health.

Vaginal thrush

Vaginal thrush is a common yeast infection that affects most women at some stage. Common symptoms include pain, itching and vaginal discharge.

Key points

  1. Vaginal thrush is caused by an overgrowth of, or an allergic reaction to, a yeast called Candida albicans.
  2. Vaginal thrush usually clears up within a week or two of treatment with antifungal medication. This is available at your pharmacy or on prescription from your doctor.
  3. For some women, vaginal thrush is more difficult to treat and tends to occur quite frequently, despite treatment. Read more about recurrent vaginal thrush.

What causes vaginal thrush?

Vaginal thrush is caused by an overgrowth of, or an allergic reaction to, a yeast called Candida albicans. It is normal to have Candida in your vagina and most of the time it does not cause any problems. However, sometimes certain factors disrupt the natural balance, causing the Candida to multiply.

What are the symptoms of vaginal thrush?

Symptoms of vaginal thrush include:

  • itching or irritation around your vagina and vulva
  • burning or stinging when weeing
  • vaginal discharge – this can be thick and white or thin and watery, without any smell
  • pain during sex.

Are some women more at risk of vaginal thrush?

Vaginal thrush can affect women and girls of all ages, but it is rare before puberty or after menopause. Your risk of getting vaginal thrush increases if you:

  • are pregnant
  • have a history of STIs
  • have recently been on a course of antibiotics or steroids
  • have diabetes and your blood sugar is not under control
  • use a type of hormonal birth control that has higher doses of oestrogen
  • have a weakened immune system, such as from chemotherapy
  • have a skin condition such as eczema or dermatitis
  • have sex when you are not fully aroused, as vaginal dryness during sex can trigger thrush
  • use vaginal deodorants, sprays, gels and wipes, perfumed bubble baths, douches or other products that change the natural acidity of your vagina.​

Can I self-diagnose vaginal thrush?

Because it’s so common and symptoms are well known, many women self-diagnose and self-treat with over-the-counter products. However, one study showed that only 33%1 of women made the correct diagnosis – the rest did not actually have vaginal thrush.

Seeing your doctor is the only way to know for sure if you have vaginal thrush. The signs and symptoms of vaginal thrush are a lot like symptoms of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and bacterial vaginosis. If left untreated, these conditions can increase your risk of getting other STIs and can lead to problems getting pregnant.

Should I see a pharmacist or my doctor about treatment for vaginal thrush?

If you’ve had vaginal thrush diagnosed in the past and you know the symptoms, you can buy antifungal treatment from a pharmacist.
See your doctor if you have symptoms of vaginal thrush and you:

  • are under 16 years or over 60 years old
  • are pregnant
  • have a history of or are concerned about sexually transmitted infections
  • have not had abnormal vaginal discharge before
  • have any of the following:
    • discoloured or strong smelling discharge
    • lower abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding that is not your period
    • vaginal thrush symptoms that have not settled despite appropriate treatment
    • vaginal thrush symptoms more than twice in 6 months
    • vaginal thrush symptoms plus other symptoms such as fever, tiredness or nausea.

What is the treatment for vaginal thrush?

Antifungal medicine is used to treat vaginal thrush. It comes in the form of vaginal creams, pessaries (tablets you insert into your vagina) or capsules that are taken by mouth (fluconazole). The choice of treatment and the dose will depend on different factors such as:

  • whether your symptoms are mild or severe
  • how often you get vaginal thrush
  • whether you are pregnant.

Symptoms should clear up within a few days of using the treatment. You may need a longer course of treatment if your vaginal thrush is difficult to treat or keeps coming back. You shouldn’t use antifungal medicine more than twice in 6 months without speaking to a pharmacist or doctor.

Read more about the treatment of vaginal thrush.

Can I have sex when I have vaginal thrush?

You can still have sex when you have vaginal thrush. However, it can be uncomfortable and you may experience a burning sensation during or after sex. Use plenty of lubricant to protect your skin.

Some vaginal creams can weaken condoms, so apply the treatments after you have had sex if you are using condoms, or use alternative forms of contraception.

Will sexual partners need treatment?

It is possible to pass thrush to your partner during vaginal, oral or anal sex.

  • If your sexual partner is a man, the risk of infection is low. He should see a doctor if he gets an itchy red rash on his penis. Read more about thrush in men.
  • If your sexual partner is a woman, she may be at risk. She should be tested and treated if she has any symptoms.

How can vaginal thrush be prevented?

The best way to prevent vaginal thrush is to identify what triggers it. If you get recurrent vaginal thrush and are unsure what is causing it, discuss your symptoms with your doctor. They can investigate the underlying causes and suggest ways you can manage it.

Things you can do to ease discomfort and prevent vaginal thrush returning:

  • Dry the affected area properly after washing.
  • Wear loose cotton underwear and avoid tight clothing.
  • Always wipe from the front (vagina) to the back (anus) after toileting.
  • Use only water-based lubricants.
  • Use soap substitutes such as water-based emollients.
  • Consider changing your laundry detergent.
  • Ensure your blood-sugar level is kept under control if you have diabetes.

Avoid the following:

  • Avoid using soap to wash your genital area.
  • Avoid irritants such as deodorants, talcum powder, bubble bath solutions, deodorised panty shields or vaginal douches.
  • Avoid spermicidal condoms.
  • Avoid fabric softeners.

Learn more

Vulvovaginal candidiasis DermNet NZ, 2014
Vaginal thrush NHS Choices, UK, 2017

1. Vulvovaginal health in premenopausal women BPAC 2011

Reviewed by

Dr Jeremy Tuohy is an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist with a special interest in Maternal and Fetal Medicine. Jeremy has been a lecturer at the University of Otago, Clinical leader of Ultrasound and Maternal and Fetal Medicine at Capital and Coast DHB, and has practiced as a private obstetrician. He is currently completing his PhD in Obstetric Medicine at the Liggins Institute, University of Auckland.

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