When it comes to women’s health, there are plenty of subjects that friends are happy to engage in conversation — how to deal with PMS, experiences with different types of birth control, the discomforts that come with pregnancy, adjusting to postpartum life, the confusion that comes with perimenopause, and the hot flashes of menopause. Yet, there are other topics that remain taboo, such as is the case with vaginal itching. Why does it happen? And, how can you recognize the symptoms of a serious condition?
Why Is My Vagina Itchy?
There are several reasons why your vagina may be itchy. The most common ones include:
1. Vulvar Dermatitis
Vulvar dermatitis is a rash caused by an allergic reaction. It is often the result when a person starts using new personal care products — such as soaps, lotions, or menstrual care products. It could also occur from switching laundry detergents, fabric softeners, toilet paper, or certain types of birth control, such as condoms, diaphragms, and/or spermicides. Once you remove the cause of irritation, the rash goes away on its own. In the meantime, you can soak in lukewarm bathwater mixed with baking soda to obtain relief from itching.
2. Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is inflammation of the vagina due to the overgrowth of good bacteria naturally found in the vagina. It is more likely to occur in women of reproductive age. Risk factors include douching, having a new sex partner, or having multiple sex partners — especially if you’re having sex with women. In addition to itching, women with BV may also experience a burning sensation while urinating, a fish-like smell in their vagina, and a gray or white vaginal discharge. The condition can be treated by taking oral medications and using topical creams or gels, as prescribed by your OBGYN.
3. Yeast Infection
A yeast infection (vaginal candidiasis) is a fungal infection that occurs when a fungus that’s normally present in the vagina — known as candida — penetrates deeper into vaginal cells. When this happens, a woman will experience intense itching, redness and swelling of the vulva, a thick, white vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese, and a burning sensation when urinating or having sex. It is usually caused by antibiotic use, taking oral contraceptives, a new sex partner, pregnancy, or uncontrolled diabetes. The condition can be treated with an over-the-counter topical cream, as well as with a prescription single-dose oral medication.
4. Sexually Transmitted Infection
There are several sexually transmitted diseases that may cause vaginal itching. These include trichomoniasis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, and genital warts. Depending on the disease, in addition to itching, you may also experience green or yellow vaginal discharge, a burning sensation while urinating, painful sexual intercourse, and spotting between periods. If you’ve had penetrative anal sex, the itching sensation will be spread to the anus, and you may also experience painful bowel movements. Some STDs can be treated and cured with antibiotics, while others don’t have a cure. The best way to protect your health and avoid complications is to see an OBGYN to design a treatment plan.
5. Skin Disease
Eczema and psoriasis are chronic skin conditions that cause itchy, scaly skin. If you are experiencing either of them, you’ll notice redness, itching, and skin rashes on other parts of your body as well. Adding to the discomfort, the rashes can spread around the anus and can sometimes include blisters. The conditions can be treated with prescription medications called biologics, as well as with topical creams. To obtain relief while you heal, you can add two cups of vinegar to bathwater and soak for about 15 minutes.
Going through menopause means undergoing a decrease in estrogen levels. In turn, the lining of the vagina thins — which often leads to itching. Other signs that you’re going through menopause include excessive sweating, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, thinning hair, and hair growth in unusual places. Common treatment options include steroid creams, antihistamines, and hormone replacement therapy.
7. Vulvar Cancer
Although many early-stage cancers don’t have any symptoms, vulvar cancer does come with several warning signs. In addition to itching, you could experience changes in the color of the skin of the vulva, bleeding that never goes away, sores, lumps, and pelvic pain — especially after urinating or sexual intercourse. Risk factors include having a weakened immune system, a history of HPV, skin conditions of the vulva, or smoking. The average age of diagnosis is around 65.
If You’re Experiencing a Vaginal Itch, OB-GYN Women’s Center Can Help
At OB-GYN Women’s Center, we aim to make all of our patients feel comfortable. And getting answers to all your questions is the first step in getting the treatment you need.
Contact us to schedule an appointment.