Vaginal itching—no woman likes to talk about it and, even more so, no woman likes to experience it. The uncomfortable sensation can range from mild and brief to severe and persistent. Despite any conclusions you may jump to though, it is usually not cause for major concern. In fact, almost every woman will experience vaginal itching at some point in her life.
But what causes the vagina to itch in the first place? And how do you know when to see a doctor about it? Let’s go over some of the most common causes of vaginal itching, when to seek medical attention, and what to expect for treatment.
What can cause vaginal itching?
There are quite a few conditions that can cause a woman to experience vaginal itching. Here are some of the most common to be aware of.
This is usually the first culprit women think of when they begin to itch down there. Yeast is a naturally-occurring fungus in the vagina and plays a role in keeping you healthy. However, if something upsets the balance of your vaginal bacteria, it can result in an overgrowth of yeast. Yeast infections can be caused by hormonal changes—such as birth control, pregnancy, menopause, or douching—or antibiotic use.
Just like any part of the body, your vagina is vulnerable to allergic reaction. If a product or chemical irritates that sensitive skin, you may experience itching and/or inflammation. Potential triggers to be on the lookout for include pads and tampons, certain underwear materials, scented products (lotions, soaps, detergents), latex condoms, and lube.
Bacterial vaginosis is an infection caused by an imbalance of normal vaginal bacteria. Sometimes, BV presents with no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may include vaginal itching along with abnormal discharge and unpleasant odor.
Vaginal itching can sometimes be an early indication of certain sexually transmitted infections. STIs that may cause this symptom include pubic lice, genital herpes, genital warts, trichomoniasis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.
Other Skin Conditions
Sometimes, skin diseases that affect other areas of your body can affect the area around your vagina too. Eczema, psoriasis, and contact dermatitis are examples of common skin conditions that can cause vaginal itching, redness, and inflammation.
When should I see a doctor about vaginal itching?
Sometimes, vaginal itching clears up on its own. But if it persists for more than a few days or begins to disrupt your daily life or sleep, you should make an appointment with your doctor. You should also see your OBGYN if your vaginal itching is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- Abnormal discharge—thick, white, cottage cheese-like discharge is a common symptom of a yeast infection, while grey, thin, fishy-smelling discharge usually indicates a bacterial infection
- Vaginal pain or abnormal bleeding—could indicate a more serious underlying issue
- Urinary issues—burning when urinating, frequent urination, urinary urgency (the constant urge to go), may indicate a UTI along with another infection
- White patches or blisters—these can be a sign of lichen sclerosis, which is a serious skin condition that can be painful and must be treated with corticosteroids
How is vaginal itching treated?
Treatment for vaginal itching will depend on the underlying cause. If you’re dealing with an allergic reaction, for example, the itching will usually stop when the irritant is removed. For infections, antibiotics or antifungals (depending on the type of infection) are usually prescribed and very effective. If your doctor suspects a separate skin condition, they will likely refer you to a dermatologist.
For mild itching cases, there are over-the-counter topicals available to help relieve your discomfort. Common options include hydrocortisone cream for external itching, special moisturizer or ointment, or even estrogen cream for hormonal problems. You should not use any OTC products for vaginal itching before consulting with a doctor about the underlying cause.
South Avenue Women’s Services is a leading provider of abortion services in Western NY, but we are also a full-service OBGYN practice. If you’re experiencing vaginal itching or any other symptoms, our medical professionals can offer you the confidential, compassionate care you need and deserve.
Call us today at 585-271-3850 to schedule your appointment!