Reasons for Vaginal Itching
Feeling itchy down there? Then you already know how annoying and embarrassing this can be. The itch can strike at any time and it doesn’t care whether you are at the supermarket, or in an important meeting at work.
The truth is vaginal itching sucks and to get rid of it, you will first have to find out what causes it. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the underlying causes of vaginal itch, and more importantly what you can do to solve them.
What is vaginal itch?
We all know what an itch is right? Well if you need clarification, an itch can be described as an unpleasant sensation which compels a person to scratch an affected area. While itch can be caused by numerous factors, the one thing they have in common is the urge to scratch.
Itching, or pruritus, can be localized or general. This means that it can occur in one particular area, such as a spot on your arm where you got a bug bite, or your foot where you had on a dirty sock, or over the entire body, as in the case of a skin condition such as eczema.
Vaginal itch is, therefore, an itchy sensation which occurs on the vulva or inside of the actual vagina which makes you want to scratch it.
Causes of vaginal itch
Most times, vaginal itch isn’t a cause for concern. Other times, it can be an indication that something is seriously wrong.
Here are a few reasons why you might be experiencing vaginal itching:
The vagina and vulva are made up of delicate skin and tissue. That means unlike the rest of your skin, this area is more likely to respond negatively to certain products and items. Chemicals in soaps, detergents, sprays, douches, and even toilet paper can trigger an allergic reaction in the vaginal area.
These irritants can cause what is known as contact dermatitis. This is a red, itchy rash which is caused by contact with these chemicals. Though not life-threatening or contagious, contact dermatitis can make your life miserable.
By now we should all know that the vagina cleans itself, but that is no excuse to neglect the vulva.
Unlike the vagina, the vulva was not designed to be a self-cleaning mechanism and needs your help to keep it fresh and clean.
Throughout the day, your body will release sweat and dead skin cells. These can build up in the vaginal region and in time cause itchiness if it isn’t cleaned. After sex, the need for cleansing increases dramatically. If the vulva is not cleaned, you will not only have to deal with an itch, but you will also have to deal with foul odors and the risk of infection.
Certain skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis can cause some serious itching down there.
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition which affects persons of all ages. It causes redness, rashes, itchiness and can even give the skin a scaly texture. This condition can spread to the vaginal region.
Psoriasis is a skin condition caused by a rapid build-up of skin cells. These extra skin cells cause scaly skin, redness, and itchiness and typically occurs in patches along the scalp, joints, and even in the vaginal region.
Another skin condition which can cause itching is lichen sclerosus. Though uncommon, this condition can cause pale, smooth skin, prone to tearing and bleeding. This condition affects mainly postmenopausal women, but can also affect men and women who haven’t yet been through menopause.
Yeast is a fungus which occurs naturally in the vagina and other parts of the body such as the gut, mouth, and throat. The amount of yeast is kept under control by the vagina’s acidic environment. However, when these conditions are affected, the yeast is unchecked and begins to grow out of control. When this happens, women are said to be experiencing a yeast infection.
This condition can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, mainly when peeing or having sex. It can swell the labia and cause them to itch or burn, and can produce smelly, cottage cheese-like discharge.
bacterial Vaginosis is similar to a yeast infection, in that a number of bacteria are present in the vagina. When the environment of the vagina changes, bad bacteria begins to grow unchecked and this causes a bacterial infection.
Though some women show no symptoms of a bacterial infection, other women experience a thin, grey or watery discharge, a burning sensation when urinating, painful sex and a persistent itch.
Sexually transmitted diseases
Sexually transmitted diseases or infections are transmitted from one person to another during unprotected oral, vaginal and anal sexual intercourse. When this happens, there are many symptoms that will indicate an infection, such as bleeding, rashes, warts, sores, abnormal discharge and itching.
Gynecological cancers such as vulvar and vaginal cancer can cause vaginal itch. These cancers affect areas such as the clitoris, the inner and outer labia, the opening of the vagina and the vagina itself.
Problems associated with vaginal itch
While vaginal itch will not kill you, it is uncomfortable and annoying. Continuous and unbearable itching will result in scratching which can damage the very delicate skin around the vagina. This causes cuts and scrapes which bacteria can make their way into and cause more itching.
When to see a doctor
While there are no warning signs for vaginal itch, you can say that vaginal itch is a warning sign itself, especially when it is accompanied by pain or abnormal discharge.
If this is your experience, and it has been happening for a few days, you need to visit a doctor. From there, he/she will ask you specific questions about the symptoms you have been experiencing, your hygienic practices and about your medical and even sexual history.
He/she will then do a physical exam of your pelvis, taking samples of your discharge and vaginal tissue. A number of tests such as a pH test, STD test, wet mount test, and even a blood and urine test will be conducted to rule out more serious conditions.
Afterward, he/she will present you with your results and layout one or more than one treatment plans that will help to relieve the itch and treat the cause of the itch.
Treatment for vaginal itch
Once you have pinpointed the cause of your vaginal itch, you can move on to treatment.
Itch caused by poor hygiene can quickly be resolved by practicing proper hygiene. Using warm water and fragrance-free soap can remove sweat and build up and in no time the itch should disappear.
Where itch is caused by a chemical irritant, simply stop using it and seek alternatives. There are many soaps and detergents designed specifically for women with sensitive skin and for vaginal care. Be sure to read the ingredients before switching over to a new product.
Treatment for skin diseases will require you to see a doctor. He/she will take into account all your symptoms and prescribe the best possible cream or medication to treat your vaginal itch.
Fungal infections can be treated by over the counter medications (OTCs). In a case where itching is too unbearable, you should see a doctor. He/she will be able to properly diagnose your condition and prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medication that will have you itch-free in about a week. Besides creams, there are pills that treat fungal infections.
If you recently had unprotected sex and suspect your itch is as a result of a sexually transmitted disease or infection, see a doctor immediately. The longer you wait is the worse your symptoms will get. It will not disappear on its own. From there, you will be treated based on the std you have. Some such as trichomoniasis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are easily treated with antibiotics or special medications such as penicillin. Others such as HPV and herpes have no cure, but can be managed with medication.
Menopause related itch is treated with estrogen creams, pills, tablets or rings. For cancer, this can be cured or managed with chemotherapy medication, radiation therapy, or whatever treatment method your doctor prescribes.
For temporary at-home relief, try soaking in a warm bath for at least 15 minutes. It can also help to keep your vaginal area clean and dry. A low-dose hydrocortisone cream can also provide temporary relief.
Vaginal itch can happen to any and every woman. It can be caused by the detergent you use to wash your underwear, poor hygiene, infection, skin disease, and even menopause.
When this happens, try to avoid scratching as much as possible and try to determine the cause of your itch. Once you have done that, you can begin to treat it. If itching persists, you must see a doctor.