What causes itchy vagina? Is it a cause for concern, or something that will clear up on its own?
For the women who suffer from this embarrassing condition, knowing when to seek help, how to treat an itchy vaginal medically or through home remedies, and prevention tips are essential in leading a confident and carefree life.
What Are The Causes Of Vaginal Itching?
- Bacterial Vaginosis – BV is the most common cause of itchy vagina. The female vaginal naturally contain both “good” bacteria (lactobacilli) and “bad” bacteria (anaerobes). To keep a healthy balance, the good must outnumber the bad bacteria. When there is an overgrowth of anaerobes such as Gardnerella vaginalis, it disrupt the pH balance of the vaginal flora and bacterial vaginosis infection occurs. The risk increases with women who use IUD birth control, have multiple sex partners, or women who have just started relations with a new sex partner. Certain medications may also affect a woman’s ability to fight off bad bacteria.
- Yeast Infection – Some women have genital itching after childbirth because their body’s hormones are imbalanced, which may trigger a fungal infection as the fungus Candida albaicans proliferates. Yeast infections can occur in women of any age, however. In fact, this same fungus causes diaper rash in babies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 out of 4 women will develop a yeast infection at some point in their lives. Risk factors include antibiotic or steroid use, uncontrolled diabetes, and hormonal changes associated with birth control pills, pregnancy, or menopause.
- Atrophic Vaginitis – This condition occurs when vaginal tissues thin and dry out, usually after menopause, as estrogen levels diminish. Noninfectious vaginitis may be a reaction to soaps, spermicides, or perfumes.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases – A condition called Trichomoniasis is caused by a microscopic, single-celled parasite and is spread through intercourse. Other STDs that cause inflammation and itching of the vagina include chlamydia, herpes, genital warts, and gonorrhea. Sexually transmitted parasites like lice, scabies, and crabs can also cause itchy vagina.
- Vaginitis – Vaginitis simply refers to inflammation of the vagina. Women who suffer from vaginal itching before period time often suffer from this condition, as more blood flow rushes to the genital region during this time, causing tissues to become inflamed.
- Allergies – Sometimes women are allergic to feminine hygiene products, douches, sprays, soaps, or spermicides, which may cause vaginal itching without discharge or even with discharge. This is not caused by any type of infection, but is simply the body’s reaction against a foreign substance it does not like.
Symptoms Of Vaginal Itching
Additional symptoms that come along with feminine itch often include:
- Change in color or amount of vaginal discharge
- Vaginal odor
- Vaginal rash
- Painful intercourse
- Painful urination
- Light spotting
Sometimes the symptoms vary according to the cause of the itchy vagina. For instance,
- A fishy vaginal odor during or following intercourse is a tell-tale sign of bacterial vaginosis. Many women also report a grayish-white, foul-smelling discharge that cannot be ignored.
- Thick, cottage-cheese-like vaginal discharge and intense itching typically indicates a yeast infection.
- If the discharge is greenish-yellow and frothy, trichomoniasis is likely the culprit.
Treatments For Itchy Vagina
Women are especially advised to see a doctor if:
- it’s been more than a year since their last visit to the OBGYN;
- they never had a vaginal infection before and aren’t sure what the symptoms are;
- this particular infection seems different;
- there have been multiple sex partners recently or simply a change in partners;
- if they’ve completed over-the-counter medication for yeast infections;
- or if there is an unpleasant odor
Depending on the exact cause, medical intervention may include STD medications, antifungal creams, suppositories, antibiotics, or vaginal creams.
Popular medications include: azithromycin, clotrimazole, diflucan, doxycycline, and flagyl (metronidazole). BV patients will either take an oral tablet or use a cream, which can clear up the problem within a week.
Yeast infections require use of an antifungal cream, suppository, or prescription medication. Tablets can be prescribed to clear up trichomoniasis. Noninfectious vaginitis involves steering clear of irritants. Menopausal women can take estrogen in the form of vaginal creams, rings, or tablets to treat atrophic vaginitis. Known yeast infections can be treated with a host of over-the-counter products such as Monistat, Vagistat or Gyne-Lotrimin.
For women who prefer to try natural home remedies, try apple cider vinegar douches, sitz baths, or applying tea tree oil to the affected area. To create a sitz bath, women should fill a tub with warm water and add several cups of apple cider vinegar and soak for at least 20 minutes. Cold compresses like washcloths can ease itching, inflammation, and discomfort. Naturally, keeping the area clean is essential. For bacterial vaginosis, women can try taking folic acid supplements or eating probiotic supplement with acidophilus cultures to promote the growth of good bacteria.
10 Prevention Tips To Avoid Vaginal Itch
- Keep the vaginal area clean and dry.
- Avoid hot tubs, and whirlpool spas.
- Avoid irritants like scented tampons and pads.
- Change tampons, pads, or diaphragms frequently.
- Wipe from front to back after defecating.
- Wear cotton underwear and cotton crotch pantyhose.
- Decrease intake of yeast-containing breads, alcohol and sweets.
- Eat probiotic yogurt on a regular basis.
- Do not use douche products.
- Use latex condoms to prevent STDs.