What Causes Vaginal Itching?
Vaginal itching is an uncomfortable symptom that is often caused by infections, irritating substances, or menopause. It may also occur as a result of certain skin disorders or sexually transmitted disease. In some rare cases, vaginal itching might be caused by vulvar cancer.
READ ALSO: Top 10 Home Remedies for Vaginal Dryness
Most vaginal itching isn’t a cause for concern. However, you should see your doctor or gynecologist if the itching is severe or if you suspect you have an underlying condition. Your doctor can determine the cause of your vaginal itching through an examination and testing.
Here some of the possible causes of vaginal itching.
Yeast is a naturally occurring fungus that’s normally present in the vagina. It usually doesn’t cause problems. However, it can result to infection when its growth goes unchecked. Vaginal yeast infection is a very common condition, affecting 3 out of 4 women at some point in their lives. The infection often occurs after taking a course of antibiotics, as these types of medications can destroy good bacteria along with the bad bacteria. The good bacteria are needed to keep yeast growth in check. The overgrowth of yeast in the vagina can result to lumpy discharge associated with itching and burning sensation.
The vagina may get itchy if it is exposed to irritating chemicals. These irritants may trigger an allergic reaction that creates an itchy rash over various areas of the body, including the vagina. Common chemical irritants include:
- bubble baths
- feminine sprays
- scented toilet paper
- topical contraceptives
- fabric softeners
Your urine may equally cause itching in your vagina if you have medical conditions like diabetes or urinary incontinence.
This is another common reason for vaginal itching similar to vaginal yeast infection. Bacterial vaginosis (BV), is triggered by an imbalance between naturally occurring good and bad bacteria in the vagina. The condition doesn’t always cause symptoms. However when symptoms do appear, they typically include vaginal itching and a foul-smelling discharge. The discharge may be thin and dull gray or white. It may be foamy in some cases.
Sexually transmitted diseases
Numerous STDs can be transmitted during unprotected sexual intercourse and cause itching in the vagina. These include:
These conditions can also cause additional symptoms like pain while passing out urine, green or yellow discharge from vagina and abnormal growths.
Women passing through menopausal phase are also at risk for vaginal itching. This is due to the reduction of estrogen levels that occur during menopause, which leads to vaginal atrophy. This is a thinning of the mucosa that can lead to excessive dryness. The dryness can cause itching and irritation if you don’t get treatment for it.
Some skin diseases, such as psoriasis and eczema, can cause redness and itching in the genital region. Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is a rash that normally occurs in people with asthma or allergies. The rash is reddish and itchy with a scaly texture. It may spread to the vagina in some women with eczema. Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes scaly, itchy, red patches to form along the scalp and joints. At times, outbreaks of these symptoms can occur on the vagina, leading to itchiness.
Physical and emotional stress can cause vaginal itching and irritation, though this isn’t very common. It might occur when stress weakens your immune system, leaving you more prone to the infections that cause itching.
Vaginal itching may be a symptom of vulvar cancer. This is a type of cancer that develops in the vulva, which is the external part of the female’s genitals. It includes the inner and outer lips of the vagina, the clitoris, and the opening of the vagina. Vulvar cancer may not always cause symptoms. However, when symptoms do occur, they may include itching, abnormal bleeding, or pain in the vulvar area. Vulvar cancer can be treated if diagnosed early.
When to see your doctor
You should see your doctor for vaginal itching if the itching is severe enough to unsettle your daily life. You should also contact your doctor if your vaginal itching persists for more than one week or if your itching occurs along with the following symptoms:
- ulcers or blisters on the vulva
- pain or tenderness in the genital area
- genital redness or swelling
- trouble urinating
- an unusual vaginal discharge
- pain during sexual intercourse
Diagnosing Vaginal Itching
Your doctor may want details about your symptoms, how severe they are and how long they have lasted. They may ask you about your sexual activities. They’ll also likely need to perform a pelvic examination. During a pelvic examination, your doctor will visually inspect the vulva and may use a speculum to see inside the vagina. They may press down on your abdomen while inserting a gloved finger into your vagina to allow them check the reproductive organs for any abnormalities.
Your doctor may also collect a sample of skin tissue from your vulva or a sample of your discharge for analysis. Your blood or urine may be tested too.
Medical treatment for vaginal itching
Once your doctor finds the underlying cause of your vaginal itching, they’ll recommend treatment options:
- Your doctor can treat vaginal yeast infections with antifungal medications. These come in various forms, including pills, ointments, or creams. They’re available by prescription or over the counter.
- Doctors often treat bacterial vaginosis with antibiotics which may be in form of pills you take orally or as creams you insert into your vagina. Regardless of the type of treatment you use, it’s important to follow your doctor’s prescriptions.
- You can treat STDs with antibiotics, antivirals, or antiparasitics. You’ll need to take your medications regularly and avoid sexual intercourse until your infection or disease clears.
- Menopause-related itching may be treated with estrogen cream, tablets, or a vaginal ring insert.
Other types of vaginal itching and irritation often clear on their own. In the meantime, you can apply steroid creams or lotions to reduce inflammation and ease discomfort. However, you should limit how much you use them because they can also lead to chronic irritation and itching.
Home remedies for vaginal itching
You can prevent most causes of vaginal itching through good hygiene and lifestyle habits:
- Use warm water to wash your genital area.
- Avoid using scented soaps, lotions, and bubble baths on your vagina.
- Avoid using feminine hygiene products, such as sprays and douches.
- Change out of wet or damp clothing right after swimming or exercising.
- Always wear cotton underwear and change your underwear every day.
- Eat yogurt with live cultures to reduce the chance of getting yeast infections.
- Use condoms during sexual intercourse.
- Always wipe from front to back after passing out stool.