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What Is the Difference Between Clotrimazole and Miconazole?

Clotrimazole is used topically to treat fungal infections.
Miconazole can come in suppository form to treat vaginal yeast infections.
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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2014
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Clotrimazole and miconazole are two different drugs entirely, although their functions and makeups are similar. Both are used in the treatment of fungal infections, primarily yeast infections. Despite these simularities, they are often used in different parts of the body and they have different active ingredients.

Both medications are used to treat fungal infections in the intestines, vagina, skin, or mouth. Each is more effective at treating certain areas of the body when compared with the other. Clotrimazole is often used in topical creams for use on the external skin, as it is most powerful when used in this manner. Miconazole is commonly used as a cream in the treatment of vaginal yeast infections and sometimes external skin infections. Neither drug is usually recommended for internal use, although miconazole is still used as an oral treatment in some countries.

Although clotrimazole and miconazole are different drugs, they work in similar ways. Both drugs inhibit fungal growth by destroying the fungus's ability to adequately build cells. This can help alleviate symptoms and complications arising from infections.

A certain amount of yeast on and in the body is normal and acts to help prevent pathogenic bacteria from overgrowing. Beneficial bacteria usually keeps fungi at bay, but sometimes it may overgrow in the vaginal and digestive tracts if the balance is thrown off. Fungi may also infect the skin or digestive system through exposure to infected people or through other, usually unknown, methods.

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Both drugs are considered safe to use for most people. There is some risk of side effects, primarily in cream or gel formulations, which can include itching, redness, burning, or tingling in areas the drug was applied. Drug interactions may also take place in some cases, so patients should speak with a medical professional before using clotrimazole- and miconazole-based medications.

Since there are so many ailments that may cause symptoms similar to those related to a fungal infection, it is important for patients to receive a proper diagnosis before using either of these medications. Bacterial infections, especially those occurring in the vaginal area, often cause the same symptoms as a yeast infection. Anti-fungal creams will not work when used for bacterial infections, and they may even make the problem worse.

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