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Doctor K: Medications help combat yeast infection

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have a vaginal yeast infection. The itching and burning are unbearable. How should I treat it? And how did I get it in the first place?

DEAR READER: Vaginal yeast infections are caused by a fungus that is usually present in small amounts on our skin, particularly moist areas such as under the breasts and in the groin. They also are present in small numbers in the vagina. Sometimes the amount of fungus increases, causing a yeast infection.

The first priority is to treat your infection. With proper treatment, it should be gone within a few days.

If this is your first vaginal infection, visit your doctor, who should confirm that your symptoms are caused by yeast and not by some other condition.

If this is not your first episode, you can treat your yeast infection with an over-the-counter antifungal medication. These medicines are usually inserted directly into the vagina as tablets, creams, ointments or suppositories. These medications include: butoconazole (Femstat); clotrimazole (Clotrimaderm, Canesten); miconazole (Monistat, Monazole, Micozole); nystatin (several brand names); tioconazole (GyneCure); terconazole (Terazole).

A single dose of fluconazole (Diflucan Oral), prescribed by your doctor and taken by mouth, can also help. But this treatment is not recommended during pregnancy.

Once you’ve treated your current infection, do the following to prevent future yeast infections:

• Keep your outer genital area clean and dry.

• Avoid irritating soaps (including bubble bath), vaginal sprays and douches.

• Change tampons and sanitary napkins frequently.

• Wear loose cotton underwear that doesn’t trap moisture.

• After swimming, change quickly into dry clothing.

• Take antibiotics only when prescribed by your doctor – and never for longer than your doctor directs.