How long vaginal yeast infections last can vary. It may depend on how severe the infection is and what treatment a person uses. Most yeast infections clear up within a week when treated correctly.

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Vaginal yeast infections are extremely common, and there are many ways to treat them. Choosing a treatment is a personal decision. Some infections will go away faster than others.

This article looks at how long a yeast infection can last without treatment, as well as recovery times for both over-the-counter (OTC) and home treatment options.

A yeast infection happens when there is a disruption of the balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina. This allows a fungus called Candida to multiply.

A yeast infection can cause an itching or burning sensation in the vagina, as well as clumpy or thick white discharge.

The severity of a yeast infection depends on how much the Candida multiplies before a person seeks treatment. Yeast infections may be mild, moderate, or severe.

A mild yeast infection may go away on its own. However, this is rare. It is always a good idea to treat a yeast infection, even if it is mild. If people do not treat yeast infections correctly, the infections will be 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.

Many people choose to try home remedies to treat mild to moderate yeast infections.

Science has not backed all home remedies, though recent studies have medically tested the following methods:

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is another promising home remedy for yeast infections. A 2015 study found that tea tree oil is effective against 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 OTC options.

Yogurt

The topical or internal application of yogurt is an effective home treatment for yeast infections.

Natural yogurt contains 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 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 people 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

Boric acid is another home remedy for yeast infections that some research suggests is effective.

A 2019 review concluded that boric acid could also be particularly useful for the prevention of recurrent yeast infections.

Boric acid suppositories are available for purchase in pharmacies and 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.

People can repeat this treatment once a day until the infection clears. It is not suitable for people who are pregnant.

Doctors recommend OTC antifungal drug treatments called azoles for mild to moderate yeast infections. These are available as:

  • creams
  • ointments
  • tablets
  • suppositories

These treatments may irritate when first applied. After a few days of use, the yeast infection symptoms should start to fade.

A course of treatment typically lasts about 1–7 days. The yeast infection will likely clear within this time.

Many yeast infection treatments are available for purchase OTC or online.

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:

  • creams
  • ointments
  • tablets
  • suppositories

Prescription azole treatment typically lasts between 7–14 days. The yeast infection should clear up within this period.

Doctors may also prescribe a single or multidose oral medication called fluconazole.

Once the symptoms resolve, the yeast infection should be gone. However, it is important to complete the full course of any treatment, as recommended.

Completing treatment ensures the return of the natural balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina. If people do not treat yeast infections fully, the infections are more likely to return.

If a person is experiencing symptoms of a yeast infection for the first time, it is best to speak with a doctor to get a diagnosis.

The symptoms of a yeast infection typically ease within a week with treatment. If they do not, a doctor can recommend further treatment.

Yeast infections are common. However, persistent or recurrent infections may indicate an underlying health condition, such as diabetes. Anyone who has more than one yeast infection a year should speak with a doctor.

Learn more about the link between diabetes and yeast infections here.

Here are some frequently asked questions about yeast infections.

What happens if a person leaves a yeast infection untreated?

If left untreated, the symptoms of a yeast infection may worsen over time. In severe cases, it could also increase the risk of other infections, along with complications such as sepsis.

What should a person do if a yeast infection does not go away?

If a yeast infection does not clear up with OTC treatments, it is important to contact a doctor. As well as testing to rule out other causes or infections, a doctor can also help recommend the best course of treatment based on a person’s symptoms and medical history.

What could it be if not a yeast infection?

Many symptoms of a yeast infection can also be from other conditions, such as bacterial vaginosis or sexually transmitted infections such as herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, or trichomoniasis. A doctor can help determine the cause and appropriate course of treatment for a person’s symptoms.

Vaginal yeast infections are a common condition that typically causes symptoms, including itching, burning, and thick or clumpy discharge.

There are many treatment options available for yeast infections, including many home remedies and prescription or OTC medications.

In most cases, symptoms should ease within a week of starting treatment. However, doctors may recommend further treatment for persistent or recurrent infections.