No discharge, just itchy: Causes of vaginal & vulval itching

    Updated 09 September 2023 |
    Published 08 April 2020
    Fact Checked
    Medically Reviewed by Dr. Holly Singletary, Dermatologist, Westlake Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery, Texas, US
    Written by Olivia Cassano
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    An itchy vagina can be incredibly irritating, but it doesn’t always mean you have an infection. Here's what you need to know. 

    Key takeaways 

    Is vulval and vaginal itching without discharge normal? 

    The short answer is no, but it is common. Any sort of itching in or around your vagina means something’s up, but it isn’t always a reason to worry, and many reasons could explain that itch.

    Before we get to the details, here’s a reminder that the vulva and vagina are two different things. Put simply, the vulva is the outer part of your genitals that you can see, while the vagina is the inner canal that leads to your cervix. You might be wondering what causes an itchy vulva without discharge, so here’s the lowdown on why you might have an itchy vagina or vulva.

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    Causes of vulval and vaginal itching without discharge

    From sweat and shaving irritation to chronic skin conditions, vulval and vaginal itching can be caused by a number of issues. Here are the most common: 

    Contact dermatitis or allergies 

    Have you ever noticed that a new clothing detergent or body wash has left you feeling itchy? Sometimes, your vulva or vagina can become irritated due to contact dermatitis. This happens when your skin comes into contact with irritating substances or allergens. 

    It’s crucial to remember that the vagina is actually a self cleaning organ and scented washes and cleansers can irritate the skin around your vulva. 

    Shaving irritation 

    It isn’t just new products that can irritate the skin around your vulva. Your hair removal routine may also be to blame. You can develop razor burn from shaving the pubic hair on your vulva. This can cause symptoms of burning, red bumps, swelling, pain, and intense vulval itching without discharge.

    It's completely up to you whether you want to remove your body or pubic hair. If you do, you can reduce the risk of razor burn by gently exfoliating the skin before shaving and always using a clean, sharp razor. You can also use a shaving cream or gel to ensure the razor glides effortlessly across the skin, but try to use one safe for delicate skin!

    Sweating

    Sweating is the natural process through which your body regulates its temperature. And yes, it’s normal for the area around your vulva to sweat too because the labia majora have lots of sweat glands. However, sweat can sometimes cause irritation and discomfort, which can result in vulval itching

    Wearing breathable clothes made of natural materials like cotton and changing out of sweaty gym clothes after exercising can make a difference. Most panty liners and pads are made from non-breathable material, too. This can cause even more heat in your pubic area and, you guessed it, more sweat. If you wear panty liners or pads, you can use unscented products and change them every couple of hours to prevent sweat from creating issues.

    Yeast infection

    Yeast infections — also known as vaginal candidiasis — are super common vaginal infections caused by the overgrowth of yeast in the vagina. The most common signs and symptoms of a yeast infection are:

    • Itching and irritation of the vulva and vagina
    • Swelling and redness of the vulva
    • Vaginal pain and soreness
    • Pain during sex

    UTI 

    A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection that can affect your kidney, bladder, and/or urethra (the tube that your pee passes through to leave your body). UTIs are extremely common, and up to 60% of women will get one at least once in their life. Common symptoms of a UTI include:

    • A burning sensation when you pee
    • Itching of the vulva
    • A strong and frequent need to pee
    • Feeling like you can’t fully empty your bladder
    • Cloudy or red pee that has a foul smell
    • Pain in your lower tummy and pelvic area
    • Having a fever or feeling generally unwell

    Chronic skin conditions 

    The skin around your vulva and vagina is very sensitive, and the source of your itching may be a chronic skin condition such as:

    • Eczema: This is an inflammatory condition that disrupts the skin’s surface and causes thin cracks and red patches, crust formation, and weeping. Among other things, an allergic reaction or initial irritation could cause eczema to flare up. 
    • Psoriasis: This is a skin disorder where there’s rapid production of new skin cells. When it happens in the vulval region, psoriasis can look smooth, shiny, and inflamed. It might be red on lighter skin tones and purple or brown on darker skin tones.
    • Lichen simplex: This is a type of neurodermatitis that can result in dry, patchy, and scaly areas of skin. 
    • Lichen planus: This is a condition that can cause inflammation and rash on the vulva and vagina and can affect other parts of your body, like your mouth, nails, and scalp. Other symptoms of lichen planus include pain around your vulva and vagina, pain when peeing or during sex, bleeding after sex, and abnormal discharge.
    • Lichen sclerosus: This is a skin condition that causes white, dry patches of skin around the genitals and bottom and vaginal itching without discharge. The cause of lichen sclerosus is unknown, but your genetics may mean you’re more susceptible. Around 10% of people who have lichen sclerosus have a family member who has it too. Symptoms linked to lichen sclerosus include itching, pain, bleeding and tearing of the skin around the vulva, painful sex, and wrinkled, blotchy patches of skin. 

    Sex

    If you experience vaginal or vulval itching after sex but have no abnormal discharge, it could be caused by vaginal dryness or a lack of lubrication. Friction can make sex very uncomfortable and leave you feeling a bit sore and itchy, so go slow before having penetrative sex and make sure you’re fully aroused. Of course, lube can make sex more pleasurable and comfortable. You may also be experiencing an allergic reaction to latex condoms or spermicides

    If you experience an itchy or burning sensation in your vulva or vagina after having sex (especially if it was unprotected sex), it could be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection (STI). STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis can all cause itching and unusual discharge. Since many STIs have mild or no symptoms, it’s really important to practice safer sex and get routine STI tests.  

    Pubic lice 

    Pubic lice — commonly referred to as “crabs” — are small insects that live on thick or coarse body hair, such as pubic hair. The lice can also live in the hair on the legs, underarms, back, chest, eyebrows, eyelashes, and face. Pubic lice are usually spread through sexual contact, but they’re technically not an STI.

    Symptoms of pubic lice include: 

    • Intense itchiness in the affected regions that gets worse at night
    • Irritation and inflammation due to scratching
    • Tiny blue spots or spots of blood on the skin of your lower abdomen or thighs from lice bites

    Herpes 

    Genital herpes is an STI that can be caused by two kinds of viruses: herpes simplex virus 1 and herpes simplex virus 2. The symptoms of genital herpes are: 

    • Small blisters, which may burst to form open sores near the genitals, thighs, or bottom 
    • Burning, tingling, or external vaginal itching
    • Pain when peeing
    • Unusual vaginal discharge

    Treating vaginal itching without discharge 

    Feeling itchy can be incredibly frustrating, but rest assured, in most cases, there are treatments available to help you feel better. Your health care provider needs to diagnose you first. If itching is caused by an STI or vaginal infection, antibiotics or antivirals will do the trick. If it's a yeast infection, you’ll need antifungals. And if it’s a skin condition causing the itchiness, your doctor might recommend a soothing cream, ointment, or antihistamines. It’s always best to check in with your health care provider if you’re experiencing vaginal itching without discharge so you can treat the root cause of your discomfort. 

    Home remedies

    If you’re experiencing mild itching in your vagina or vulva without discharge or other unusual symptoms, you can try one of these simple home remedies to temporarily soothe itching: 

    • A baking soda bath: Add a few tablespoons of baking soda to warm water and soak for around 20 minutes. 
    • A colloidal oatmeal bath: Dissolve plain oatmeal into warm water and soak for up to 20 minutes. You can also buy colloidal oatmeal online.
    • A cool compress: Soak a clean washcloth with cold water and place it over your vulva. Take care not to rub the area too much, as that could make the irritation worse.
    • Apply pure, fragrance-free aloe vera gel.
    • Apply fragrance-free vitamin E oil to relieve itchiness caused by dryness. 
    • Use an over-the-counter emollient or soothing cream such as petroleum jelly or diaper cream.

    These remedies might safely relieve vaginal or vulval itching, but it’s always best to check with your doctor before trying any at-home treatments!

    Basic prevention of an itchy vagina and vulva 

    You may not always be able to prevent vulval and vaginal itching, but you can look after your vaginal health by following these tips:  

    When should I speak to a health care provider?

    You know your body better than anyone, so you should see your doctor anytime you experience unusual symptoms, such as itching, discomfort, dryness, or abnormal discharge. Always book a checkup with your health care provider if: 

    FAQs

    Why does my pubic area itch at night?

    An itchy vulva or vagina might seem worse when you’re trying to fall asleep because you have fewer distractions, so you may be more aware of bodily sensations. You also have increased blood flow to your skin at night, and your skin loses water, which can leave you feeling irritated and itchy. Pubic lice can also cause more intense itching at night. If your pubic area is itching regularly at night, then book a checkup with your doctor.

    How long should vulval itching last?

    It depends on what’s causing the itching. In some cases, it might go away on its own after a few days, but some conditions, like an STI or yeast infection, can take more than a week to treat. If your vulval itching gets worse or doesn’t go away within a few days, give your health care provider a call.

    Can a hormone imbalance cause vulval itching?

    Fluctuating hormones might be the reason you’re itchy. Low estrogen levels can make vaginal tissue drier than normal, which can cause irritation and itching. Low estrogen levels can also lead to perimenopause and thyroid issues. Chat with your doctor for help and advice.

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    History of updates

    Current version (09 September 2023)

    Medically Reviewed by Dr. Holly Singletary, Dermatologist, Westlake Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery, Texas, US
    Written by Olivia Cassano

    Published (08 April 2020)

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