Vaginal Itching – Causes Treatment and Prevention Tips
There are many subjects on which women aren’t comfortable to talk. Being a woman is not easy and there are a lot of comfortable and embarrassing health conditions she has to go through her lifetime. One such condition is vaginal itching that could distract her daily life.
Vaginal itching is referred to an uncomfortable and at times a painful symptom that is caused due to infections, irritating substances or even menopause. Irritation or itching anywhere on the body can cause discomfort, but when it occurs in sensitive areas such as vagina and vulva, it can cause utter discomfort.
Vaginal itching need not always be an annoying condition. However, a woman especially a pregnant woman should consult the gynecologist for treating the underlying condition of vaginal itching.
What causes vaginal itching?
There are several causes that could lead to itching in vaginal area. Here are some:
If the vagina is exposed to irritating chemicals, then these irritants could trigger allergic reaction and cause itchy rashes on various parts of the body including the vagina. Some of the chemical irritants are:
- Feminine Sprays
- Topical Contraceptives
- Scented Toilet Paper
- Fabric Softeners
Certain skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema can cause itching and redness of the genital area. Eczema or atopic dermatitis causes rashes which is common in people with allergy or asthma. Psoriasis on the other hand, usually causes red, scaly patches on the scalp and joints but sometimes occurs on the vaginal area as well.
Yeast is a fungus that is naturally present in the vagina. Though, it isn’t a cause of concern, however, if the overgrowth of yeast goes unchecked, it can cause infection. This condition is also known as vaginal yeast infection or vaginal candiasis. It’s a very common type of infection which affects every 3 out of 4 women at some point of their life. Yeast infection can also occur due to anti-biotics as these medicines can destroy good bacteria which are needed to check yeast growth.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
STDs or sexually transmitted diseases usually occur due to unprotected sex which can lead to itching in vagina. STDs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes, trichomoniasis not only causes itching but additional symptoms including abnormal vaginal discharge and painful urination.
Another common cause of vaginal itching is bacterial vaginosis (BV). This condition like yeast infection is also triggered by natural imbalance of good bacteria and bad bacteria in the vaginal area. Besides causing itching, bacterial vaginosis can also lead to abnormal vaginal discharge which may be thin, dull gray or white inducing foul smell.
It’s a rare condition that can cause thin white patches on the skin, including the vulvar area. This can cause itching. In some cases, these patches can permanently scar the vaginal area. This condition is common in postmenopausal women.
Changes in the hormone levels during pregnancy and menopause can cause vaginal itching. The reduction of estrogen levels can lead to vaginal atrophy. This can result in excessive dryness causing itching and irritation in the vaginal area.
Though it’s not very common, but physical and emotional stress can sometimes weaken the immune system. This can expose a woman to infections that cause itching.
In very rare cases, itching can be a cause of vulvar cancer which develops in the vulva, the external part of female genitals. Vulvar cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms but when they occur, they may include abnormal bleeding, pain as well as itching in the vaginal area.
Vaginal itching during pregnancy
One might think that morning sickness and nausea are the most common symptoms of pregnancy, but vaginal itching is also common. This can occur due to following reasons:
- In pregnancy, the body requires more fluid. This can cause vaginal tissue to be drier than normal leading to itching and irritation.
- Vaginal secretions contain more sugar than normal. This can cause itching and burning sensation.
- Excessive sweat around the vulva and entrance to the vagina can cause moisture. These moist areas are easily irritated, hence resulting in itching.
- Certain products used on daily basis such as soaps and perfumes might upset the vaginal area as well.
When to seek appointment with the doctor?
If the itching disrupts your day to day life, you must consult the doctor. If you experience vaginal itching for more than a week or if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as ulcers, pain, redness, trouble urinating, and discomfort during sex, you must see a doctor.
Diagnosis of vaginal itching
The doctor would be asking about your symptoms and the duration of the symptoms. You would also be asked about your sexual activities followed by pelvic examination. During this physical examination, the doctor typically analyzes the vulva and may inspect inside the vagina using a speculum.
The doctor may also insert a gloved finger inside the vagina while pressing down on the abdomen to check for any abnormalities in the reproductive organs. If she suspects of vulvar cancer, she might also take sample of the skin tissue for analysis. She might also ask you to go through blood or urine tests for diagnosing the underlying condition.
How vaginal itching is treated?
After finding the underlying cause, the doctor can recommend various treatment options. The treatment would depend on the condition that is causing the trouble.
- For vaginal yeast infections, antifungal medications would be given. These include topical creams, ointment or pills.
- For bacterial vaginosis, typically antibiotics are given. These medicines are also available in various forms such as cream or oral pills.
- For sexually transmitted diseases, antivirals, antibiotics or antiparasitic medicines can relieve you from itching and other symptoms. You will be asked to avoid sexual intercourse during the course of medication.
- For itching related to menopause, it might be treated with estrogen based tablets, creams or vaginal ring insert.
How to prevent vaginal itching?
Some types of itching can clear on their own without any need for medical intervention. However, you can also try some prevention tips including good hygiene and lifestyle. These home based remedies include:
- Avoid scented soaps and lotions
- Always use warm water and gentle cleansers for washing genitals
- Avoid using sprays, fragrances or powders around the vaginal area
- Wear cotton underwear as they don’t catch moisture
- Use condoms during sex
- Wipe from front to back after using toilet
- If you have diabetes, keep you blood sugar under control
- Add unsweetened or low-fat yogurt to your diet, especially if you are pregnant as it keeps body’s pH level balanced
The reasons of vaginal itching vary so greatly that it requires you to take appointment of your doctor. If you are experiencing prolonged problems with vaginal itching, make sure you consult a gynecologist without delay.
Speculum - A medical device for widening a bodily passage in order to examine the interior.
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4. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015, September 18). Yeast infection (vaginal) read more