Vaginal itching is an uncomfortable and sometimes painful
symptom that often occurs due to irritating substances, infections, or
menopause. It may also occur as a result of certain skin disorders or sexually
transmitted diseases (STDs). In rare cases, vaginal itching might develop due
to stress or vulvar cancer.
Most vaginal itching isn’t a cause for concern. However, you
should contact 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. They’ll also be
able to recommend appropriate treatments for this uncomfortable symptom.
Causes of vaginal itching
Here some of the possible causes for itchiness of the vagina
and the surrounding area.
Exposing the vagina to irritating chemicals can cause
vaginal itching. 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
- topical contraceptives
- fabric softeners
- scented toilet paper
If you have diabetes or urinary
incontinence, your urine may also cause vaginal irritation and itching.
Some skin diseases, such as eczema and psoriasis, can cause
redness and itching in the genital region. Eczema, also known
as atopic dermatitis, is a rash that primarily 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 common 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 as well.
Yeast is a naturally occurring fungus that’s normally
present in the vagina. It usually doesn’t cause problems, but when its growth
goes unchecked, an uncomfortable infection can result. This infection is known
as a vaginal
yeast infection. It’s a very common condition, affecting 3 out of 4 women
at some point in their lives, according to the Mayo
Clinic. 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 in uncomfortable symptoms,
including itching, burning, and lumpy discharge.
vaginosis (BV) is another common reason for vaginal itching. Like a vaginal
yeast infection, BV is triggered by an imbalance between naturally occurring
good and bad bacteria in the vagina. The condition doesn’t always cause
symptoms. When symptoms do appear, they typically include vaginal itching and an
abnormal, foul-smelling discharge. The discharge may be thin and dull gray or
white. In some cases, it might also be foamy.
Numerous STDs can be transmitted during unprotected sexual
intercourse and cause itching in the vagina. These include:
These conditions can also cause additional symptoms,
including abnormal growths, green or yellow vaginal discharge, and pain while urinating.
Women who are going through menopause or who have
already done so are more 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.
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
In rare cases, 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 successfully
if your doctor diagnoses it in the early stages. This is another reason that
yearly gynecologist checkups are essential.
When to see your doctor about vaginal itching
It’s important to see your doctor for vaginal itching if the
itching is severe enough to disrupt your daily life or sleep. Although most
causes aren’t serious, there are some treatments that can decrease the
discomfort of vaginal itching.
You should also contact your doctor if your vaginal itching
persists for more than one week or if your itching occurs along with the
or blisters on the vulva
or tenderness in the genital area
redness or swelling
unusual vaginal discharge
during sexual intercourse
What to expect during your appointment
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, including how
severe they are and how long they have lasted. They may ask you about your
sexual activities as well. 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. This allows them
to 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 doctor might
perform blood or urine tests as well.
Medical treatment for vaginal itching
Once your doctor finds the underlying cause of your vaginal
itching, they’ll recommend treatment options. The specific course of treatment
required would depend on the particular condition that’s causing the problem:
- Your doctor can treat vaginal yeast infections with
antifungal medications. These come in various forms, including creams,
ointments, or pills. They’re available by prescription or over the counter.
However, if your doctor has never diagnosed you with a yeast infection, make
sure to speak with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medication.
- Doctors often treat BV with antibiotics. These
may come as 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 instructions and to complete the full round of medication.
- 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 if you
remedies for vaginal itching
You can prevent most causes of vaginal itching through good
hygiene and lifestyle habits. There are several steps you can take at home to
prevent vaginal irritation and infection:
warm water and a gentle cleanser to wash your genital area.
scented soaps, lotions, and bubble baths.
using feminine hygiene products, such as sprays and douches.
out of wet or damp clothing right after swimming or exercising.
cotton underwear and change your underwear every day.
yogurt with live cultures to reduce the chance of getting yeast infections.
condoms during sexual intercourse.
wipe from front to back after having a bowel movement.