Itching in the genital area can be symptomatic of several different conditions, such as ‘jock itch’ in men and vaginal infection in women. In both men and women this type of itching could be the result of irritated skin, an STI or even an allergy. Often this type of itch will clear up by itself provided the source of the irritation is removed. Where this type of itching is the result of something more serious, more specific treatment will be needed. If you have suffered from this type of itching and have been unable to treat it yourself then you should see a medical professional for advice.
Here is a list of the possible causes of vagina itching and how you can get relief from this type of itching.
Any type of chemical irritant even the ones but come in everyday products can, if they come in contact with the vulva or vagina, trigger an allergic reaction which is called contact dermatitis. The type of chemical irritant that we're talking about are things like fragrances in sprays and deodorants etc. if this is the cause of your itching then the area will look red and will be sore.
Some of the most common offenders in everyday products are:
Some commonly experienced skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema can also cause itching and redness in the genital area.
Psoriasis is a skin condition that is relatively common and will cause itchy scaly patches that are red and raised along the joints and the scalp although from time to time these can spread to the vulval area as well.
Eczema is a skin condition which is also commonly known as atopic dermatitis. Usually eczema will consist of a rash that people suffering from asthma or allergies exhibit. The rash will be scaly in texture and very itchy and can also spread to the vulva.
A naturally occurring fungus, yeast is present naturally in the vagina all the time. Mostly it doesn't cause any problems but if the fungus becomes overgrown and this is not controlled, then a vaginal yeast infection can occur - a very itchy and uncomfortable condition that can be associated with burning sensation and discharge from the vagina that is whitish in colour. This discharge may be smelly, and where it is, it will smell of yeast.
Sometimes taking a course of antibiotics for other reasons can set up a yeast infection as the antibiotics destroy the good bacteria that control the bad bacteria.
Other possible reasons for developing a yeast infection may be uncontrolled diabetes, pregnancy, hormonal imbalance at the time of your period, or stress.
Bacterial Vaginosis is another possible culprit, giving rise to itching in the vagina area and similar to a yeast infection it will be triggered by the good and bad bacteria that occur naturally in the vagina. BV is not always symptomatic but when symptoms are present they will usually include itching in the vagina and a discharge from the vagina that smells fishy and is either a grey or white colour and sometimes can even be foamy in nature.
Another possible cause of vaginal itching is STI infection such as:
Where an STI is present there may also be other symptoms such as painful urination, sores in the genital area and discharge.
Although pubic lice are not specifically sexually transmitted they can cause itching and will be passed on during close contact but can also be called from towels or bedding. The kind of itching caused by pubic lice will worse at night and you may also notice some blue dots near to the bites. It is also quite common for a fever to develop.
During the pre-menopausal and menopausal stage of life itching in the vagina area can become more common. This is because less oestrogen is being produced in the menopausal woman and the tissues of the vulva and vagina can become drier and lose elasticity giving rise to itching and irritation. Sex might also be painful and some women experience bleeding after sex.
Emotional or physical stress can also give rise to itching and irritation in the vaginal area. This happens because being stressed leads to the immune system weakening, leaving you more vulnerable to an infection that might cause itching. The increase in cortisol, the stress hormone, has been Found in animal models to have an effect of the health of the vagina and an increase in vulnerability to vaginal infections.
Although cancer of the vulva is not common, itching in that area can be an early symptom. Due to the rarity of this condition, itching in this area is far more likely to have another less worrying cause. Generally the type of itching that is a symptom of vulvar cancer will not clear up with any treatment and you might also observe some changes in the skin around the vulva like thickening or discoloration. Lumps and bleeding and discharge are also likely symptoms although in some people with cancer the vulva they are completely asymptomatic. A check-up if you have any of these type of symptoms will soon reveal the cause of the itching and if it is cancer of the vulva, the earlier you can be diagnosed and treated, the better.
If the itching that you are experiencing is severe enough to keep you awake at night and to affect your life during the day then it is time to see the doctor. Although most cases of this type of itching can be easily cleared up it is far better to get a proper diagnosis from a healthcare professional. Generally one prescription should see the end of the infection.
Generally speaking you should see the doctor if you have any of the symptoms listed below:
You will be asked about the symptoms you've been experiencing, about the severity and the length of time that you've suffered from them. You will usually be asked for details of your sexual activity as well. You might also have a pelvic examination. If you do have this type of examination your doctor will examine your vulva and may also do an internal examination using a speculum if you’re female. You may also have a swab taken so that any discharge can be analysed. You may also be asked to give urine and blood for testing.
Your doctor will be examining you to look for the following:
He or she may also ask some questions to help with the diagnosis such as:
If you can possibly stop yourself scratching you will benefit from that because the more you scratch your skin the itchier it will become. There is also the danger that you could cause burning or even bleeding. Once the skin is torn then it is a lot easier for an infection to set in.
As soon as the underlying cause of your itching has been identified treatment options will be explained to you. They will depend on what specifically is causing the problem.
This type of infection needs to be treated with anti-fungal medication. This may be in the form of tablets, ointment or cream which are available over the counter as well as on prescription
Typically treatment for BV will be with antibiotics. Again, how this is administered may be through creams or tablets to be taken orally or pessaries to insert internally. It is very important that you complete the entire prescribed course even if your symptoms go away.
Treatment for STIs varies according to which particular STI is being treated, but medication will usually be given in the form of antibiotics, antiparasitic or antivirals. As well as prescribing medication your doctor may also suggest that you abstain from sexual activity until the infection has cleared up.
itching that is menopause related can be treated with creams containing oestrogen with vaginal ring insertion or with tablets.
Where itching has been caused by other non-specific causes most commonly they will clear up by themselves. To relieve the itching in the meantime steroid lotions or creams can be applied to deal with the discomfort. To make sure that you don't make the situation any worse you should always be sure to read the instructions very carefully and use creams that contain steroids, exactly as instructed. If your symptoms get worse despite applying the cream then you should go and see the doctor.
There are some things that can be done to reduce the risk of developing itchy genitals:
Both men and women can follow these general measures that can help prevent itching in the genital area:
Although there is no doubt that genital itching is very annoying and uncomfortable, most of the time it will not be serious and will resolve on its own with a few lifestyle tweaks such as the ones we have mentioned above. Never hesitate, however, to contact your private GP or medical professional if you have any worries about genital itching.