Itchiness anywhere on your body can be irritating and painful, but in an area as sensitive as the vagina, the itchiness may feel much worse and can be extremely uncomfortable. If you’re experiencing vaginal itching, it could be down to a simple skin irritation or a sign of an underlying problem, such as thrush, bacterial vaginosis (BV) or a sexually transmitted disease.
In this article, we talk you through the many causes of vaginal itching and how to treat it. If the itching persists, you should see your GP as soon as possible for advice.
Why is my vagina itchy?
There are numerous reasons you may be experiencing vaginal itching and it can be difficult to know when or why it started. Below, we’ve listed the main causes of excessive itching down there.
What causes vaginal itching?
A yeast infection, such as thrush, can cause severe itching and irritation in both men and women. Other symptoms include a thick, white vaginal discharge and a stinging sensation during intercourse or when you wee. Thrush can usually be treated easily and quickly. We explain how thrush can be treated further down.
During the menopause, which typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, a woman’s oestrogen levels drop. It is this hormonal decrease that can cause the vaginal walls to become thin and dry. This leads to irritation and excessive itchiness. Not all women will experience itchiness as a result of the menopause, however, many do. Fortunately, there are creams that you can purchase to reduce the symptoms.
Chemicals or substances
The most common cause of vaginal itching is irritating chemicals or substances coming into contact with the skin. The vagina is a very sensitive area and certain chemicals or products, such as scented toilet paper, condoms, washing powder or some soaps, can cause itching.
You should treat the area gently, washing it with a soap-free feminine wash that’s designed especially for intimate areas. Avoid over washing your vagina as this can dry it out, causing further itching.
Your underwear can also have an impact on how itchy your vagina is. We’ll discuss the kind of material you should wear further down.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Vaginal itching could be a sign of an STD. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis can all cause irritation of the vagina or the vulva (outer vaginal lips). You should see your GP as soon as possible if you think you might have an STD.
Is vaginal itching normal?
Vaginal itching is quite common and can often just be a result of skin irritation. Itchiness might go away on its own, however, if it persists, you should book an appointment with your GP.
You should have a think about any products you may have used recently that could be causing the irritation. For example, you may have been wearing tight clothing the day before, such as a pair of skinny jeans or cycling shorts.
How to get rid of vaginal itching
The type of treatment you need usually depends on the reason for the itching.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) and thrush won’t go away by themselves. BV can be treated at home using a gel or cream that is applied to the vaginal area. It’s quite common for BV to return within three months of your first treatment. If it does return, you could continue to use the cream or, if symptoms worsen, consult your doctor for advice.
Thrush is treated with an antifungal medicine. This could be in the form of a tablet you take orally, or it could be in the form of a tablet, known as a pessary, that you put inside your vagina. It should clear up after one week. If the thrush returns, you should speak to your GP about further treatment. Thrush is contagious, so you should check that any sexual partners haven’t contracted it as well.
If you’ve been to the doctor and determined that you don’t have BV or a yeast infection, then maybe consider changing your washing powder or getting new underwear that’s made from a more breathable material.
How to stop vaginal itching from coming back
If you’ve experienced vaginal itching, then you will understand how irritating and painful it can be. There are a few precautions you can take to prevent it from coming back in the future.
You should avoid using scented products, such as sanitary pads, tampons and toilet paper. These can all cause the natural bacteria to become unbalanced and make your vagina irritated. Try swapping to unscented products. Standard soaps and body wash can also have the same effect, so only use a wash that is designed specifically for that area and preferably soap, paraben and colourant free.
Where possible, you should try to wear cotton underwear instead of polyester or other man-made materials that don’t allow the skin to breathe.
Whenever you go to the toilet, you must wipe from front to back. This will prevent unwanted bacteria from spreading to your vagina and potentially causing an infection.
Finally, always use condoms to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. If you and your partner have been together for a long time and know that neither of you has an STD, you could choose to use other forms of contraception if condoms could be the cause of the itchiness.
If the itching persists, you should see your GP for advice and treatment.