Vaginal yeast infections are extremely common, and there are many ways to treat them. Choosing a treatment is a personal decision, but some get rid of infections quicker than others.
In this article, we look at how long a yeast infection can last without treatment, as well as recovery times for both over-the-counter and home treatment options.
Can yeast infections go away on their own?
If treated correctly, most yeast infections will clear up in a week.
A yeast infection happens when the balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina is disrupted. This allows a fungus called Candida to multiply.
A yeast infection can cause an itching or burning sensation in the vagina, as well as a thick or clumpy white discharge.
The severity of a yeast infection depends on how much the Candida multiplies before it is treated. Yeast infections may be:
A mild yeast infection may go away on its own, but this is rare. It is always a good idea to treat a yeast infection, even if it is mild. If yeast infections are not treated properly, they are more likely to return.
Treatments for yeast infections soothe the affected area and target the overgrown Candida fungus. This double action reduces the itching and burning and restores a healthy balance of yeast and bacteria.
Doctors recommend over-the-counter antifungal drug treatments called azoles for mild to moderate yeast infections. These are available as:
These treatments may irritate when first applied, but after a few days of use, the yeast infection symptoms should start to fade.
A course of treatment typically lasts between 3 and 7 days. Normally, the yeast infection will have cleared in this time.
For more severe yeast infections, a doctor may prescribe a longer course of prescription azole treatment.
Similarly to short-acting azoles, longer courses of azoles are available as:
Prescription azole treatment typically lasts between 7 and 14 days. The yeast infection should clear up within this time frame.
Doctors may also prescribe a single or multidose oral medication called fluconazole.
Many women choose to use home remedies to treat mild to moderate yeast infections.
Science has not backed all home remedies, but recent studies have medically tested the following methods:
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil may be an effective home remedy.
Tea tree oil is another promising home remedy for yeast infections. A 2015 study found that tea tree oil is effective in fighting off all types of Candida fungus.
To use tea tree oil for a yeast infection, pour a few drops across the top and sides of a tampon and insert the tampon into the vagina. Leave in place for a few hours and then remove.
While tea tree oil may be effective, it may not be as fast-acting as over-the-counter options.
The topical or internal application of yogurt is an effective home treatment for yeast infections.
Natural yogurt contains healthful bacteria called Lactobacillus. These bacteria produce hydrogen peroxide that kills the excess Candida.
A 2015 study found that yogurt might be more effective than clotrimazole (Canesten), an antifungal cream.
Using a yogurt without any added sugar is essential. Sugar can cause Candida to multiply more, making the infection worse.
Plain, natural yogurt can be smoothed onto the surface of the vagina or applied internally.
Some women find inserting an unused tampon applicator filled with yogurt works well. Freezing it first may bring additional cooling relief. Others simply use their fingers to apply the yogurt.
While yogurt may be effective, it may not be as fast acting as antifungal treatments.
Boric acid is another home remedy for yeast infections that some research suggests is effective.
A 2011 research review found boric acid to be a safe alternative remedy for yeast infections.
Boric acid suppositories are available for purchase in pharmacies. There are also many available to buy online. People can also make their own by putting no more than 600 milligrams of boric acid into a clean gel capsule.
Boric acid suppositories can sometimes cause side effects, including vaginal burning and discharge.
This treatment can be repeated once a day until the infection clears. It is not suitable for women who are pregnant.
How to tell a yeast infection has gone
Once the symptoms resolve, the yeast infection should be gone. However, it is a good idea to complete the full course of any treatment, as recommended.
Completing treatment ensures that the natural balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina is restored. If yeast infections are not treated fully, they are more likely to return.
When to see a doctor
If a woman is experiencing symptoms of a yeast infection for the first time, it is best to speak to a doctor to get a proper diagnosis.
The symptoms of a yeast infection will usually improve within a week with treatment. If they do not, a doctor can recommend further treatment.
Yeast infections are common, but persistent or recurrent infections may indicate an underlying health condition, including diabetes. Any woman who has more than one yeast infection a year should speak to a doctor.