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Tioconazole is an antifungal medication that most often is used to treat vaginal yeast infections caused by Candida yeast species. In addition, other formulations can be used to treat other types of yeast infection, including ringworm; jock itch; athlete’s foot, or tinea pedis; and sun fungus, or tinea versicolor. Tioconazole is sold under brand names such as Vagistat® and Monistat®. In contrast to many older medications for the treatment of yeast infections, some preparations of this drug can cure an infection after the application of just one dose.
Many antifungal medications work by destroying the cell wall of yeast organisms. In yeasts, the wall surrounds and protects the cell, and it is essential for the cell's survival. Tioconazole disrupts the cell wall, causing it to leak. The integrity of the cell wall eventually is so impaired that the entire cell bursts.
Tioconazole is available as a cream of varying strengths. When used to treat vaginal yeast infections, a plastic applicator is supplied along with the cream. The applicator is inserted into the vagina to distribute the cream at the site of infection. The cream can be used even if a woman is having her period. Condoms or diaphragms cannot be used as a sole form of birth control for three days after treatment, however, because the medication can damage certain types of rubber.
This medication can cause a few painful side effects, but most are minor. Women who use this medicine to treat a vaginal yeast infection might experience itching, burning, soreness or swelling of the vaginal or vulva. Minor abdominal or pelvic cramps are another possible side effect that some women experience.
No clinical studies have shown that tioconazole is capable of causing long-term side effects such as cancer. There is some evidence that the drug can reduce fertility, but this occurs only at very high doses, far beyond those used in the treatment of infection. This drug is categorized by the United States Food and Drug Administration as Pregnancy Category C, which means that there is no firm evidence that the drug can cause birth defects. There is, however, some evidence that high doses can increase the risk of fetal death. It is recommended by the FDA that this drug is used during pregnancy only if absolutely necessary.
When used in the treatment of vaginal yeast infections, most preparations of this drug require only one dose to be used. For skin and nail infections, however, a longer course of treatment might be required. In these cases, it is important that the entire course is taken, even if it seems that the infection has cleared up before the treatment is finished. This is because the infection can recur if the entire course of medication is not used.