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Genital Itching: Possible Causes, Treatments and Prevention
Genital Itching: Possible Causes, Treatments and Prevention
04 Jan 2023

Genital Itching: Possible Causes, Treatments and Prevention

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.

What causes itching in the vagina area?

Here is a list of the possible causes of vagina itching and how you can get relief from this type of itching.

Itching caused by irritants.

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:

  • Scented bubble baths, shower gels and soap
  • Sprays for women's intimate areas
  • Vaginal douches
  • Spermicides used as topical contraceptives
  • Ointments, lotions and creams
  • Laundry detergents
  • Fabric softener fluid
  • Toilet paper that is infused with the scent
  • Feminine hygiene products such as tampons, panty liners and pads
  • Additionally if you do suffer incontinence, leaking urine can also give rise to irritation and itching

Existing conditions of the skin

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.

Yeast infections

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 (BV)

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:

  • Genital warts
  • Chlamydia
  • Genital herpes
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Trichomoniasis

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.

Menopausal itching

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.

Suffering from stress

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.

Cancer of the vulva

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.

Are you experiencing any of the symptoms outlined in this article?

Contact the clinic today for a same-day GP appointment.

When should I see a doctor about my itching in the vaginal area?

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:

  • Vulval blisters or ulcers
  • Tenderness or pain around the vulval area
  • Swelling or redness of the genitals
  • Any difficulty with urination
  • A vaginal discharge that looks unusual
  • Any pain or discomfort when you are having sexual intercourse

What Should I expect at my doctor’s appointment?

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.

What tests will be carried out?

Your doctor will be examining you to look for the following:

  • Whether your skin is red, white or brown
  • Any thickening of the tissue in the area
  • Any scaling or dryness

He or she may also ask some questions to help with the diagnosis such as:

  • Where exactly is the itch?
  • Have frequently do you find yourself having to scratch?
  • Can you easily stop scratching?
  • How to severe do you think the itching is?
  • Is it keeping you awake at night?

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.

Treatment for Vaginal itching

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.

For a vaginal yeast infection

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

Treatment for Bacterial Vaginosis

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 an STI

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.

Menopausal itching

itching that is menopause related can be treated with creams containing oestrogen with vaginal ring insertion or with tablets.

Itching from other causes

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.

Concerned about any of the issues raised in this article? It's well worth undergoing a full body health screening to check for underlying issues, with 4 GP appointments included in all Advanced and Elite MOTS throughout 2023.

Is it possible to reduce the risk of getting itchy genitals?

There are some things that can be done to reduce the risk of developing itchy genitals:

  • After using the toilet, make sure that you wipe from the front towards the back so that bacteria is not spread from the anal area to the vagina.
  • Try not to use feminine sprays or vaginal douches because the chemicals in them can disrupt the balance of vaginal
  • Reduce the amount of detergent you use in your laundry and get unscented varieties.
  • Don't be tempted to buy treatments for itching over the counter because sometimes these have the opposite effect and the itching actually gets worse.
  • If you regularly use a lubricant and suspect it may be causing itching, speak to a health professional about what would be better to use, in your case.
  • Excessive shaving or scratching can make things a lot worse.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet to maintain healthy bacteria in the vagina.

For men the following tips can help avoid itching:

  • Make sure that your penis is always washed well, not forgetting the area of skin beneath the foreskin, if you have one.
  • If you get very hot and sweaty then consider more frequent underwear changes

Both men and women can follow these general measures that can help prevent itching in the genital area:

  • Clean the genital area thoroughly and always be sure to dry properly after washing.
  • Use a very mild soap with no scented element. Rinse very well with water.
  • Get into the habit of wearing natural fibre loose underwear and outer clothing and make sure you always change your underwear at least every 24 hours.
  • Wear loose, natural-fiber underwear and clothing. Change your underwear at least every 24 hours.
  • If you go swimming or have a bath and make sure you dry yourself very thoroughly and do not wear wet clothes for any longer than you have to.
  • Try to avoid having unprotected sex. This is especially important if you think that your partner may be suffering from an infection.
  • Have Yourself checked regularly for STI’s if you have a new partner or multiple partners.

Final word

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.