A yeast infection is a frequent cause of skin and mucous membrane irritation. Some of the most common areas for yeast infection include the genitals, buttocks (diaper rash), folds of skin, and mouth (oral thrush).
If you have a yeast infection, you might wonder how long your symptoms will last. For most people, yeast infections are uncomfortable but benign, and their symptoms clear up quickly with prescription medication or over-the-counter treatment.
During a yeast infection, a type of fungus, Candida albicans, overgrows. While every person has Candida on their skin and in their digestive tract and genitals, this fungus is normally kept in a healthy balance with other fungi and bacteria. But if Candida outnumbers these other organisms, you can develop an itchy rash.
There are several factors that may increase your risk of developing a yeast infection, or candidiasis. Candida flourishes in warm, damp, sugary environments. Some people who are especially prone to yeast infections are people with diabetes, autoimmune conditions, or who have difficulty cleaning between the folds of their skin.
The vagina is more often a site of a genital yeast infection than is the penis. Around 75% of people with a vagina will develop at least one vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime.
Candidiasis near the head of the penis or under the folds of the foreskin may result in balanitis (inflammation of the penis). This affects 11% of adults and 4% of children who have a penis.
Oral thrush, or a yeast infection of the mouth, is one of the most common types of candidiasis. Babies and young children are especially predisposed to oral thrush. Estimates are that 5% to 7% of babies have oral thrush. It is also seen in 20% of cancer patients and 9% to 31% of AIDS patients.
Yeast diaper rash is seen in between 7% and 35% of babies. It may also occur in adults who use incontinence pads.
Can a Yeast Infection Go Away on Its Own?
Yeast infections rarely go away on their own. When Candida begins to overgrow, it’s difficult to stop that infection unless you change the environmental and medical factors that allowed the yeast infection to occur in the first place.
If an antibiotic has disrupted the balance of Candida to bacteria, that balance likely won’t resolve itself. For example, treatment might include taking a probiotic to replenish those missing bacteria or using an antifungal cream to clear up the extra Candida.
If you do not treat your yeast infection in a timely manner, your symptoms will likely worsen. A person may scratch at their irritated skin, which can cause the area to crack, bleed, and become infected.
Otherwise, a yeast infection in one area of your body can spread over time. An untreated case of oral thrush may become more painful and more difficult to treat if the candidiasis moves down into the esophagus. A genital yeast infection can impact the surrounding skin on your legs, anus, and buttocks.
Rarely, untreated yeast infections can move inside your body and can prove fatal. These severe forms of invasive candidiasis may impact your blood or your internal organs. Invasive candidiasis may affect people who have recently had surgery.
How Yeast Infections Are Treated
Yeast infections are often treated with a prescription of fluconazole, an oral antifungal medication, or an over-the-counter antifungal cream, like clotrimazole or miconazole.
While some yeast infections may be resolved with over-the-counter treatments, you should consult your doctor if you have chronic candidiasis, if your yeast infection causes pain or discomfort that disrupts your daily life, if you are breastfeeding or pregnant, or if your infection has not improved after taking the over-the-counter treatment.
Yeast infections can cause similar symptoms as some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or conditions like eczema. A doctor can help properly diagnose the cause of your skin irritation.
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Your doctor may prescribe a dose of fluconazole. Patients may find relief by rinsing their mouth with saltwater, avoiding sweet foods, and eating yogurt or other foods rich in probiotics.
Vaginal or Penile Infection
For vaginitis, you may try to use an over-the-counter cream that you insert into your vagina. For balanitis, you may apply an over-the-counter antifungal directly to the irritated area. If these over-the-counter treatments do not resolve your infection, your doctor may recommend fluconazole.
Patients should wash their genitals with water and unscented soap, launder their underwear and towels, and consider wearing breathable clothing.
Skin Folds and Other Locations
An over-the-counter cream can help clear up most cases of athlete’s foot, itchy armpits, or other skin infections. A doctor may prescribe fluconazole or another antifungal medication like terbinafine.
Keeping these areas clean and dry will help prevent further yeast infections.
Anal and Diaper Rash Yeast Infection
An antifungal cream for jock itch or diaper rash can alleviate some mild-to-moderate cases of anal candididasis. As with other yeast infections, a doctor may prescribe fluconazole if these over-the-counter treatments do not solve your symptoms.
When You'll Feel Relief
When you’re coping with a yeast infection, you likely want relief as soon as possible. Different treatments may have different timelines to take full effect.
Antifungal medications are the quickest and most powerful form of intervention. A single dose of Diflucan (fluconazole) can clear up some yeast infections, and some patients may feel their symptoms resolve within a day after having taken the pill.
Over-the-counter ointments or suppositories do not require a doctor’s visit and are widely available at pharmacies. However, these creams may take several days before fully healing your infection.
Ensure that you are applying the treatment as directed, even if you start to feel better. If you stop using an antifungal product too soon, your yeast infection may return. If your symptoms do not resolve after a week of using the over-the-counter treatment, consult your doctor.
A Word From Verywell
Although millions of people live with yeast infections, you may feel frustrated when you develop candidiasis. Yeast infections can impact many different people for a variety of reasons, so you shouldn’t be embarrassed.
While your infection will probably not go away on its own, you can find some relief when you seek medical treatment for your yeast infection. If you have any doubt about what may be causing your skin irritation, reach out to a doctor to make sure you have a yeast infection rather than a more serious condition.
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Laken Brooks
Laken Brooks (she/hers) is a freelance writer with bylines in CNN, Inside Higher Ed, Good Housekeeping, and Refinery29. She writes about accessibility, folk medicine, and technology.
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