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All About Vaginal Itching: Common Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Vaginal itching is a common occurrence and usually includes other symptoms like redness or burning. But what causes vaginal itching and burning? How do you treat vaginal itch or prevent it from happening in the first place? We’ve got everything you need to know about this uncomfortable symptom.

Vaginal itching occurs when the area around the vulva becomes irritated or inflamed. Vaginal itching is incredibly common, occurring as early as pre-puberty through to post-menopause. In many cases, the condition can be easily treated. 

Vaginal itching and burning can be an uncomfortable symptom of different health conditions. Itching may be caused by bacteria, an allergic reaction, a chronic health condition, injury, or sexually transmitted infection (STI), to name a few. Vaginal itching can range in intensity, from minor vaginal irritation to a vaginal itch that interferes with daily life or sexual function.

Depending on what’s causing an itchy vagina, there are different treatment options available. Let’s look at some of the possible causes of having an itchy vaginal area and when to see a doctor about vaginal itch.

Because vaginal itching is a relatively common occurrence, there are many possible causes for why it could be happening. Here are some of the possible reasons for itching in your vaginal area.

Vulva itching can occur when the external genitals come into direct contact with something that causes irritation. The clinical term for this kind of skin reaction is “contact dermatitis.” 

Contact dermatitis symptoms include redness or a red rash, itching (either mild or severe), swelling, burning, and dry or scaly skin. In more severe cases of contact dermatitis, bumps and blisters may develop.

Some allergens that commonly cause contact dermatitis include:

  • Certain perfumes or dyes found in laundry detergent
  • Latex found in condoms or sex toys
  • Medications or prescription creams

In less common cases, vaginal itching may be related to diet. Some common foods that can cause vaginal irritation include coffee, tea, chocolate, tomatoes, soda, milk, and peanuts.

Another possible cause of vaginal irritation is personal hygiene. The vulva, inner thighs, groin, and buttocks can become humid and collect bacteria if not kept clean

Vaginas have a natural cleaning mechanism — the labia minora and majora help prevent dust or bacteria from entering the vagina, while vaginal secretions serve as a way to clear out any excess bacteria from within the vagina. 

Another possible cause of vaginal irritation is personal hygiene. The vulva, inner thighs, groin, and buttocks can become humid and collect bacteria if not kept clean.

Cleaning the vagina with soap is unnecessary and can interfere with the natural cleaning process. In addition, many soaps contain perfumes and dyes which can irritate the sensitive skin around the vulva and vagina. 

Vaginal irritation may happen when a vaginal or vulvar injury is healing. Some possible injuries that could cause an itchy vagina include: 

  • Swelling or irritation caused by penetrative sex, masturbation, or an increased intensity or frequency of sexual intercourse. 
  • Burns or irritation caused by waxing or shaving the hair around the vagina. 
  • Birth-related injuries, like vaginal tears or recovery from an episiotomy. 

Approximately 75 percent of all women will experience at least one vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime. Vaginal yeast infections, or vaginal candidiasis, typically occurs because of overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans.

Approximately 75 percent of all women will experience at least one vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime.

As the fungal overgrowth penetrates deeper into the cells of the vagina, it can cause other symptoms like redness, swelling, burning (especially during sex or urination), vaginal pain, rash, and an odorless vaginal discharge that’s either watery or thick and clumpy.

One of the symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) is burning, especially while peeing, which can cause vaginal irritation before, during, and after urination. Bladder or urethra infections happen when bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract enter through your urethra to your bladder. 

One of the symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) is burning, especially while peeing, which can cause vaginal irritation before, during, and after urination.

Other symptoms of a UTI include a frequent urge to urinate, the inability to pass more than a small amount of urine, cloudy or pink urine, pelvic pain, and urine with a strong odor. 

STIs often have symptoms of vaginal itching or vaginal irritation. STIs like trichomoniasis, scabies, and chlamydia are easily spread and can cause these symptoms. 

Scabies, caused by a burrowing mite, also causes small red bumps, redness, and scaling skin. Chlamydia symptoms include vaginal discharge and pain during sex. 

The only way to treat an STI is with prescription medications or creams. 

People with skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, or lichen sclerosus can experience a flare-up anywhere on their body. If a psoriasis outbreak happens on or near the vulva, it may cause red patches of skin, scaling skin, or dry and cracked skin, as well as an itchy vulva.

If you have a known skin condition, be sure to speak to your doctor before attempting to treat vaginal itch. 

In rare instances, vaginal itching can be a symptom of a more serious health condition. Diabetes, liver disease, lymphoma, kidney failure, celiac disease, and hyperthyroidism are some examples of diseases that may include symptoms like vaginal irritation or an itchy vulva. 

Typically, you would have other symptoms related to these conditions that would require medical treatment.

As you can see, there are many different causes of vaginal itching, ranging from the benign to the more serious. Your treatment options will depend on the cause of your itchy vagina and your physician’s directions. Some treatments you can try at home include:  

  • Abstaining from foods that you know cause an allergic reaction
  • Using laundry detergent that doesn’t contain synthetic dyes, perfumes, or chemicals
  • Changing your underwear, pad or tampon, or taking a shower
  • Wearing breathable underwear made from natural fibers
  • Over-the-counter treatment if you know that your symptoms are caused by a yeast infection. If you’ve never been diagnosed with a yeast infection before or if you are not sure that it is a yeast infection, see a doctor before attempting to treat it yourself. If you’re pregnant, visit a physician too. 

If your vaginal irritation is caused by fungal overgrowth, STI, or bacterial infection, your doctor will recommend a treatment that’s right for you, such as: 

  • Taking a prescription medication or applying a prescription cream
  • Further diagnostics to test for specific conditions
  • Preventive measures to limit the spread of an infection

If you have any doubt about the cause of your vaginal itch, speak with your doctor about your symptoms. 

See your doctor or gynecologist if you have any of these symptoms in addition to vaginal itch: 

  • Persistent itching
  • Unusual vaginal irritation or discomfort
  • Painful or burning urination
  • Recent sex with a new partner or multiple partners
  • Symptoms persist after trying non-prescription treatment
  • History of yeast infections, STIs, or UTIs
  • Fever or chills
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Itching worsens or develops into a rash or blisters
  • Vaginal pain

There are many possible causes of vaginal itching. If you’re experiencing vaginal irritation with symptoms that persist or worsen, make an appointment with your doctor. With the right treatment, relief from vaginal itch is possible. 









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