Have you ever been in a situation where your vagina itches so bad that you feel like scratching it even in public? You may have faced such a situation. Vaginal itching can be so annoying and, at the same time, embarrassing. That is why in this article, we outline what you need to know about vaginal itching and how to deal with the problem.
Vaginal itching is one of the most common complaints amongst females. It can happen to anybody with a vagina, irrespective of age. Vaginal itching can be mild or severe. Also, different things can cause itching of the vagina or vaginal area as will be discussed in this article.
What is vaginal itching?
Vaginal itching is when the vulva or vagina becomes irritated/itchy. This irritation can occur on any part of the vagina – the clitoris, the labia majora, the labia minora, the vaginal opening, or deep inside the vagina.
Vaginal itching can be accompanied by inflammation of the vaginal area, tenderness, and a burning sensation. It can be a symptom of health conditions such as sexually transmitted diseases (STD), an injury, or an allergic reaction to a product used. Having an itchy vagina is not a cause for alarm as there are different treatment options for the condition.
Causes of vaginal itching
Any of the following can cause vaginal itching:
1. Allergic reaction to Irritants
Vaginal itching can be a result of an allergic reaction that occurs when the vagina is exposed to irritating chemical products, especially when you are trying out a new brand of products such as:
• Shower gels
• bubble baths
• Sanitary products – Tampons or pads
• detergents and fabric softeners
• feminine hygiene sprays,
• scented toilet paper
Some of these products can irritate the vaginal tissue and cause itching or burning. The best way to stop irritation caused by the use of any substance is to:
• change the product’s brand if you suspect the cause of the vaginal itching to be the product you used.
• avoid the use of laundry detergent that contains synthetic dyes, perfumes, or chemicals
• avoid using any product to clean your vagina; instead, use only warm water.
Some types of food or drink can trigger an allergic reaction that may cause the itching of the vulva area. Food that may cause itching includes peanuts, tomatoes, and spicy foods. Also, consuming a high amount of coffee, milk, tea, chocolate, soda, or alcohol might trigger itching.
To prevent vaginal itching triggered by what you ate, abstain from foods you notice that you are allergic to.
3. Personal hygiene
One more conceivable reason for vaginal itching is an individual’s hygiene. Both lack of or an obsession with personal hygiene can play a role in the vulva and vaginal itching. The vulva, inner thighs, groin, and buttocks can become moist and attract bacteria or encourage fungal growth if:
• they are not kept clean.
• If your underwear are tight or made with synthetic materials such as nylon that do not allow for air to circulate.
While it is important to keep the vagina region clean, the vagina has a natural self-cleaning mechanism – the labia minora and majora assist with keeping dust and bacteria from entering the vagina, while vaginal discharges help to clear out any excess bacteria from inside the vagina.
• So, cleaning the vagina with soap, bathing gel, and douches is pointless and may disrupt the natural cleaning process. Also, many of the cleaning products contain perfumes and dyes, which can irritate the sensitive skin around the vulva and vagina. All you really need is clean and perhaps warm water to wash your vagina and if you must use any cleaning agent, use milder and fragrance-free products. Try not to use strongly perfumed or scented soaps or deodorants.
• Put on clean, breathable, and loose underwear made from natural fibres like cotton.
• Change sanitary towels, pads or tampons as often as possible.
• Gently and carefully clean the entire region after urinating or defecation, wiping backwards from the vagina towards the anus. This will reduce the possibility of moving bacteria from the anal region to the vulva.
4. Skin condition
The itching around the vagina may result from a person’s skin condition. People with skin conditions like eczema or lichen sclerosus can experience a flare-up of the skin problem on any part of their body including their vulva and vagina thereby causing dryness and itching.
Vaginal itching caused by skin problems can be treated using medicated creams.
If you are experiencing itchiness in your vagina and you have a known skin condition, consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
5. Vaginal yeast infection
Also known as vaginal candidiasis, vaginal yeast infection is one of the most common causes of vaginal itching. Approximately 3 out of 4 women experience it at least once in their lifetime. Vaginal yeast infections are caused by the overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans, a natural fungus found in the vagina. It usually does not cause any problem as the growth is controlled by the presence of other bacteria also resident in the vagina. But antibiotics can destroy both the good and bad bacteria in the vagina. Other factors such as pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes, or a weak immune system can disrupt the balance between the fungi and bacteria, resulting in an overgrowth of Candida albicans.
6. Bacterial vaginitis (BV)
Like vaginal yeast infection, BV is another common cause of vaginal itching. It results from the disruption of the natural balance between the good and bad bacteria in the vagina.
Although the symptoms may not manifest in some women, others may experience symptoms like vaginal itching and painful sexual intercourse.
See a doctor as soon as you can if you suspect that you have Bacterial Vaginitis for a proper diagnosis and to get the right prescription of an oral antibiotic/vaginal antibiotic cream.
7. Sexually transmitted infection (STI)
Vaginal itching can often be a symptom of sexually transmitted infections. Many STIs are transmitted through unprotected sex and cause itching in the vagina. These STIs include trichomoniasis, HIV/AIDS, genital warts, gonorrhoea, genital herpes and chlamydia.
The only way to treat vaginal itching caused by STIs is to Speak a Doctor as soon as you can for professional help.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor or gynaecologist if the vaginal itching disrupts your daily activities or sleep or if you experience any of the following:
• Persistent and unusual vaginal itching or discomfort that last more than a week.
• Trouble urinating as a result of pain or burning sensation while urinating.
• Pain and discomfort during and after sex.
• Symptoms persist after trying over the counter or non-prescription treatment
• History of yeast infections or STIs.
• Vaginal pain
• Ulcers or blisters on the vulva
• An abnormal vaginal discharge with an unusual colour or odour
There are different possible causes of vaginal itching with varying options of treatment. It is advised that you Speak with a Healthcare Provider for proper diagnoses, especially if you’re experiencing vaginal itching with persistent or worsening symptoms.