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Vaginal Itching

On This Page: Causes |STDs | Irritants | Diagnosis | Prevention

What is Vaginal Itching?

Most people with vaginas experience vaginal itching at some point. If you have one or both of these symptoms, it’s possible that you may have a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It could also be something else, as various factors and conditions can cause these symptoms. Getting tested and talking to your doctor can help you know for sure what’s going on and how to treat it.

Itching in the vaginal area can be mild to severe. This sensation may be accompanied by other symptoms like vaginal burning or unusual discharge. Itching can be constant, or certain activities like peeing and sex can make it worse. This discomfort (and sometimes pain) can happen anywhere in the genital area, including your:

  • Vaginal opening
  • Labia
  • Clitoris

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What Causes Vaginal Itching?

Vaginal itching can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Irritants like scented products, tight fabrics, and douching
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Yeast infection
  • Menopause

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Sexually transmitted diseases are spread during oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Stinging while peeing can happen when urine flows over vaginal lesions or inflamed areas, such as the vulva or labia.

STDs that can cause vaginal itching include:

  • Chlamydia and GonorrheaThese bacterial STDs affect mucous membranes, including the genitals. If left untreated, both chlamydia and gonorrhea can spread through the reproductive organs and cause inflammation and infertility. Often, people get chlamydia and gonorrhea together in what is called a co-infection.
  • Genital HerpesThis viral infection is caused by herpes simplex virus 1 or herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2). During outbreaks, clusters of small, painful lesions appear and eventually rupture and ooze. There may be itching and irritation during the healing process, when urine or clothing comes into contact with lesions, during sex, or when a tampon is inserted.
  • Trichomoniasis – Both males and females can get this STD from a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Trich causes inflammation, which may result in a burning/itching sensation.1
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – This viral infection causes white or skin-colored warts on the vulva, vagina, cervix, or anus.2

Getting tested is the only way to know if you have an STD and detect which one(s) you have.

Treatment for STDs

Treatment depends on the STD. Some STDs, like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trich, are curable through prescription antibiotics. Others, like herpes, aren’t, although there is medication to help manage symptoms and reduce the risk of spreading herpes to partners. If you test positive, we can help. Our doctors offer consultation and treatment options so you can get the support and prescription you need before you resume sexual activity.

Irritants That Cause Itching

Some everyday products like soaps, fabrics, and perfumes may irritate the sensitive skin of the vagina and vulva, causing stinging, tingling, rawness, and/or soreness. Allergic reactions to certain chemicals can trigger an itchy rash. This may appear immediately after using the product or after repeated use.  Repeated friction from wearing tight clothing, like non-breathable underwear, also irritates the skin. This can also cause an itching sensation.

Other things that can irritate your vagina include:

  • Feminine sprays, vaginal soaps, or bubble baths
  • Detergent or fabric softeners
  • Tight underwear, pantyhose, or clothing
  • Menstrual pads or tampons
  • Contraception, lubricant, or condoms
  • Douching

Treatment for Irritants

Stopping and avoiding the use of the product should solve the irritation. In the meantime, resist the urge to scratch so you can give your skin the chance to heal. Avoid using scented products on your genitals, as fragrance can also cause irritation. If needed, a doctor may prescribe ointment to help soothe the area.3

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial vaginosis is a condition that occurs when there is an imbalance of a certain type of bacteria in the vagina. According to the CDC, bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection in women ages 15-44.4

Although researchers do not completely understand the cause of BV, having a new sex partner or multiple sex partners can increase the risk of getting BV. Having BV can make you more likely to get an STD if you are exposed to one.

Many women with BV don’t have symptoms, but BV can cause pain, itching, or burning in or around the outside of the vagina. BV can also cause:

  • Thin white or gray vaginal discharge
  • A strong fishy odor, especially after sex
  • Burning when peeing

Treatment for Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis can be treated with prescription antibiotics. To clear up your BV, your doctor may recommend a gel, cream, or oral pill. Persistent or recurrent BV is common, so you should return for evaluation if symptoms happen again.5

Yeast Infection

Yeast infections (also called candidiasis or thrush) are common, and most women experience them at least once in their lifetime. Yeast is a fungus that is naturally present in the vagina. Good bacteria generally keep yeast in check, but factors like antibiotics, hormone changes, a weakened immune system, and diabetes can cause yeast overgrowth.6

Vaginal yeast infections can be irritating and uncomfortable. Symptoms of a yeast infection can be similar to other infections, but can also cause:

  • Lumpy, curd-like discharge
  • Swelling of the labia (lips of the vagina)

Treatments for Yeast Infections

Yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter antifungal medication. There are many forms, including creams, ointments, tablets, and vaginally inserted suppositories. A doctor can also prescribe an oral pill. If your infection doesn’t go away or if you get more than four yeast infections per year, you may require ongoing medication for up to six months.7

Menopause

Menopause is a natural period of a woman’s life when she stops having her period (in the U.S., the average age for menopause is 52). As the body transitions to menopause, hormones change. The decrease of estrogen during menopause can cause vaginal atrophy, or thinning of the vaginal walls. Shortening and tightening of the vaginal canal can cause irritation, and decreased lubrication can cause discomfort during sex.8

Other symptoms of menopause include:

  • Changes in your period
  • Hot flashes
  • Frequent urge to pee or incontinence
  • Changes in mood and sex drive

Treatment for Menopause

Menopause is a normal part of life, but you can take steps to make the transition as comfortable as possible. Talk to your doctor for treatments to help relieve menopause symptoms. They may prescribe estrogen supplements or other hormone therapies such as creams, tablets, or vaginal inserts.

Should You Be Concerned?

There are many possible causes for vaginal itching, including but not limited to the ones mentioned above. If your vaginal itching persists or gets worse, the best way to find the root of your problem is to get tested and speak to your health care provider.

Vaginal health is an important and normal part of your wellbeing, so don’t be embarrassed. Healthcare services like ours, are here to help.

Diagnosis

There are a few different things a doctor does to identify what’s causing vaginal irritation.

A doctor may ask you several questions, including:

  • When did you first start experiencing symptoms?
  • Are there any other symptoms you have had such as vaginal discharge or vaginal odor?
  • Are you sexually active?
  • Do you have more than one sexual partner?

A doctor may also do a pelvic exam, inspecting your vulva and inserting a speculum inside your vagina. Certain STDs tests, like ours, can be done via blood or urine samples, which means you don’t need to undergo a physical inspection. Through STDcheck, you can directly order STD testing online and visit the lab with no appointment necessary.

Prevention

Here are a few ways you can avoid vaginal irritation and infections which can cause itching:

  • Shower regularly and use gentle, unscented soap
  • Avoid scented products, feminine sprays, bubble baths, and douches
  • Wear breathable cotton underwear and change it every day
  • Use lubricants during sex to help with vaginal dryness and friction
  • Use condoms and dental dams every time you have sex for STD prevention
  1. “Trichomoniasis - CDC Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/stdfact-trichomoniasis.htm
  2. “Genital Warts.” Office on Women’s Health.  https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/genital-warts
  3. “Vulvitis: Management and Treatment.” https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15175-vulvitis/management-and-treatment
  4. Bacterial Vaginosis - CDC Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stdfact-bacterial-vaginosis.htm
  5. “Bacterial Vaginosis - 2015 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines.” https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/bv.htm
  6. “Vaginal Candidiasis.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/genital/index.html
  7. “Vaginal Yeast Infections.” Office on Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/vaginal-yeast-infections
  8. “Menopause Symptoms and Relief.” Office on Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-symptoms-and-relief

Medically Reviewed by on February 5, 2020


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