There’s nothing more frustrating for a woman than a vaginal itch. However, if you find the itchiness getting more intense or persistent after some time, there might be a cause for concern.
The good news is that vaginal itching is common among women. But make sure you don’t ignore it as there can be several conditions associated with it! Here are 5 causes and what you can do to mitigate the itch.
- 1 Bacterial Vaginosis
- 2 Yeast Infection
- 3 Skin Irritation and Inflammation
- 4 Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
- 5 Vaginal Dryness
- 6 Determining the root of the itch
Bacterial Vaginosis is caused by the bacteria Gardnerella Vaginalis. The overgrowth of Garderella is caused by the shift in the balance of vaginal flora, which leads to your symptoms of itching and discharge.
It is associated with various risk factors like bacteria imbalance in the vagina due to vaginal douching and washes, Intrauterine Devices (IUD), sexual intercourse as well as wearing tight underwear or pants for extensive periods of time.
Also known by its abbreviation BV, Bacterial Vaginosis is a common cause of vaginal infections in girls.
What to do if you suspect you have BV
If you suspect you have BV, it is important to consult your women’s health doctor as soon as possible. You will be recommended to undergo a swab test at the women’s clinic to find out exactly what type of bacteria is present in the vaginal area. This is because almost all the other bacterial infections, including STDs, present similar symptoms.
Your doctor will then prescribe antibiotics. You would also need to modify your daily feminine habits to keep your vaginal area clean and healthy to avoid getting a recurrence.
Be sure to monitor the vaginal itch closely and seek medical treatment if the itch persists.
Yeast infection is sometimes confused with BV as they share similar symptoms like vaginal itch, vaginal odour, pain during sex, vaginal swelling, and abnormal vaginal discharge.
But unlike BV (which is a result of Gardnerella Vaginalis), yeast infection is caused by an overgrowth of Candida. Candida is a type of fungal infection whereby the underlying cause is also due to the overgrowth of Candida due to the imbalance of the vaginal flora. This could also be due to recent use of antibiotics, vaginal douching and overwashing, tight underwear or pants, sexual intercourse and IUDs.
Yeast infection is also very common. It affects up to 75% of women and girls at some point in their lives after puberty.
How to Manage Yeast Infection
Yeast infection can be treated with antifungal creams or pessaries which you can get from a women’s clinic.
You might be asked to do a swab test as a yeast infection can be mistaken for other types of vaginal infections like BV or even STDs because they share similar symptoms.
Once the infection is treated and the vaginal itch subsides, make sure you adopt proper vaginal hygiene habits to prevent the yeast infection from recurring.
Skin Irritation and Inflammation
External skin irritation could also cause vaginal itch.
Skin irritation is attributed to bad habits like using strong soaps and feminine wash daily, consistent use of tight pants and underwear, as well as the daily use of scented panty liners. These bad habits could lead to significant skin irritation which could result in a persistent and bothersome itch around the vulva.
Other contributing factors to vaginal itching can also include sensitivity to lubricants or condoms during sexual intercourse, or even a new sanitary pad brand.
Many women also suffer from long standing eczema that can also affect the skin around the genitals.
How to Manage
You can get topical creams from a doctor, but it is important to seek treatment early to ensure that the itch is not due to something more serious.
Also, make sure you modify your daily feminine habits and avoid the common irritants that could end up worsening your condition.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Vaginal itchiness can also be a common symptom of sexually transmitted infections (STI). Here are some STIs that may be associated with vaginal itching and what you can do about them.
A. Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. Herpes can be transmitted from one party to another through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected area.
Genital herpes usually presents with blisters or ulcer like lesions over the genital region. These blisters are usually painful, but if mild, may sometimes just present as a vague discomfort, tingling or itchy sensation.
What to do if you have Genital Herpes
Seek medical treatment early to prevent the condition from worsening or spreading it to others. Herpes blisters can usually cause a significant amount of discomfort and pain for the affected person.
Your doctor will usually perform a swab test on the blister or ulcer to identify the herpes virus to confirm the infection. You will also be prescribed antiviral medications and creams as treatment.
The herpes virus unfortunately stays in your body for life once you get infected. While your immune system can suppress the virus most of the time, you may expect to get a flare up whenever your immunity is weakened.
B. Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Trichomonas
These infections are caused by bacteria that are sexually transmitted. Potential places of infection can include the cervix, vagina,rectum, urethra and throat. They could also present with abnormal vaginal bleeding, spotting or discharge. Unfortunately, many (up to 80% of women) may also be asymptomatic and not be aware of their ongoing infection.
Prolonged infection with chlamydia, gonorrhea or trichomoniasis without treatment can lead to the spread of infection into the womb, leading to permanent scarring and fertility problems.
What To Do
As these infections all present similar symptoms but are treated differently, a swab test is essential to screen for and identify these infections. They can then be treated with the appropriate antibiotics.
It is crucial to seek treatment early or to go for regular STI screening to avoid an unwanted delay in diagnosis and treatment.
C. Genital Warts
Genital warts are a sexually transmitted infection that is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). They usually present as painless bumps felt over the genital region. Sometimes, these warty lesions may also cause some skin irritation and slight itching around the vaginal region.
Genital warts should be treated early to prevent its spread and to prevent passing it to other people. Possible treatment options can include topical medications, cryotherapy or laser treatment.
As the same HPV virus is also associated with cervical cancer, it is important to ensure that you have a PAP smear done as well as to take the HPV vaccination for prevention.
Also known as vaginal atrophy, vaginal dryness is a common sign of menopause which can cause itch and cause discomfort down there.
As your body gradually approaches menopause, the production of estrogen and progesterone by the ovaries slows down as well. This will lead to thinning and drying of the skin around the vagina and also reduce lubrication.
Aside from vaginal itching, dryness could cause other issues like vaginal bleeding, urinary tract infections (UTI) as well as painful sex.
How to Manage Vaginal Dryness
Visit a women’s health doctor if you find the itch intolerable and persistent. Vaginal itching due to atrophy for menopausal women can be treated with topical estrogen therapy which could help relieve dryness by replacing the hormones your ovaries are no longer producing.
Get checked to ensure that the dryness and itching is not associated with something more serious.
Determining the root of the itch
Vaginal itching, if persistent, can seriously affect a person’s day to day life and activities. It also often disrupts their sleep at night. So make sure you speak to a female doctor as soon as possible to get proper treatment!
In the meantime, practice proper hygiene by keeping your vaginal area clean and have safe sexual intercourse if you are sexually active. If you find that the itch persists, speak to a doctor to get a proper diagnosis.