Vaginal itching is a type of genital itching that refers to an uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptom experienced in the vagina that often occurs due to irritating substances, infections, or menopause. Other causes of vaginal itching include:
- certain skin disorders,
- sexually transmitted diseases (STDs),
- Stress or vulvar cancer (in rare cases).
Body itches can be pretty discomforting, where most times, one gets relief through scratching. Itching around the genital areas, including the vagina and the vulva areas, can be uncomfortable and painful symptoms of infections, irritants and menopause. However, some genital itching may not pose a problem, and some do not require treatments to resolve. When itching becomes recurrent, with discharge, is persistent, then there is a need to see the healthcare provider. The health care provider will make a diagnosis after:
- asking for signs and symptoms experienced by the patient,
- Carrying out certain tests or examinations.
The results will help the healthcare provider recommend treatments that will treat the symptoms effectively.
Causes of Vaginal Itching
Several things can cause vaginal itching, from the toiletries we use to certain health conditions. The causes are below.
- Irritants: Certain products such as soaps, scented tissues, bubble baths, douches, creams, detergents, and ointments can irritate the vagina. These trigger an allergic reaction that causes itching in the genitals.
- Certain skin infections: Infections of the skin such as eczema and psoriasis can irritate the genitals. Sometimes, the outbreaks of these conditions are evident in the vagina.
- Yeast infection: The fungus known as yeast is a natural floral of the vagina. However, when it grows uncontrollably, it causes a problem in the vagina called a vaginal yeast infection.
- Bacterial vaginosis: Unlike vaginal yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis occurs when there is an imbalance in the number of naturally good and bad bacteria in the vagina. Although mostly asymptomatic, bacterial vaginosis can lead to an abnormal foul-smelling discharge and itching of the vaginal.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are usually from unprotected sexual intercourse. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital warts, genital herpes, trichomoniasis. These STDs can also cause vaginal itching and other symptoms such as yellow or green vaginal discharge, etc.
- Menopause happens due to a fall in the estrogen level during menopause, leading to vaginal atrophy. The dryness caused by vaginal atrophy can lead to vaginal itching. Picture courtesy: allaboutwomenmd.com
- Stress: Though this is not so common, stress can cause the immune system to weaken, leaving room for infections that can result in itching of the vagina.
Vaginal Itching and White Discharge
Secretions from the vagina are known as vagina discharge and are sometimes normal. It can be said to be a way for the body to cleanse the vagina. During sexual arousal and some other physiologic process, there is usually vagina discharge, which is normal. However, some discharges are abnormal and may be due to infection.
Physiologically, Vaginal discharge in women happens daily, though when the estrogen level increases, the volume of discharge increases. These high levels of estrogen happen in certain situations like a few days before ovulation, use of medications that either increase estrogen levels, e.g. fertility drugs or contain estrogens, few months before menarche and during pregnancy.
There are different types of discharges classified based on their color and consistency. Itching and abnormal discharges may be caused by certain types of infections followed by itching.
There is usually a white discharge at the start or finish of a menstrual cycle, and this is perfectly normal. Still, when discharge has a thick, cottage cheese-like appearance and is followed by itching, it could be a symptom of yeast infection, and there is a need to treat it.
Vaginal Itching Before and After Period
Vaginal itching before, during and after a period is normal to experience. Itching before a period may be due to a shift in hormones, although it may be due to infection. Some common causes of vaginal itching before period include
- Vaginal dryness: Before the start of a period, estrogen level falls rapidly. The level of estrogen usually peaks during ovulation. This fall in estrogen will cause vagina dryness, which can be itching and painful, especially during sexual intercourse.
- Yeast infection: The normal flora of the vagina can be affected due to a change in the pH balance of the vagina. This change can be caused by the fluctuations that occur with the hormones throughout the menstrual cycle, causing an outgrowth of Candida fungus (Candida is a normal flora of the vagina and the lactobacillus in the vagina controls it). This outgrowth of Fungus causes yeast infection (yeast infection is also known as candidiasis), bringing about cyclic vulvovaginitis. Cyclic vulvovaginitis is a cyclic yeast infection which some people experience. The experience occurs either before or during menstruation at the same stage of the menstrual cycle. It causes itching and burning sensations inside the vagina or on the vulva.
- Products used during period: using some products during menstruation can irritate some people. Using scented products can cause allergies or irritation in those with sensitive skin. Even using tampons can cause vaginal irritation and dryness. Switching to other products like unscented pads or silicone menstrual cups, if observed that irritation may be due to products used during the period will reduce vagina irritation.
The following can help reduce itch during the period
- Try switching to menstrual cups
- Frequently change tampons or pads
- Use unscented pads or tampons
- Avoid the use of scented products like soaps in your vagina
- Wash vagina with water and mild soap.
Is itching a sign of yeast infection?
Candidiasis is also known as a yeast infection. The yeast cells are normal flora of the vagina, but an imbalance can cause multiplication of the yeast cells bringing about swelling, irritation and itching. Yeast infections are common. A fungus causes it. Symptoms include itching in the vagina, rash, redness and swelling around the vulva, and vaginal discharge, which can be watery, thick white and looks like cottage cheese.