Of all the places to possibly get a rash and itchy, the vagina is the absolute worst. Vaginal itching is an uncomfortable, yet common occurrence. There are a large number of causes, and some require medical treatment. There are tons of reasons why it feels like a wool sweater is forever attached to your vagina. Here are a few things that might be causing the itch—and how to take care of it for good:
Vaginal Itching and Burning: 11 Common Reasons
It’s Most Likely a Bacterial Infection
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common bacterial infection, often affects women of childbearing age. BV occurs when the normal, healthy bacteria in the vagina become unbalanced. Many women who get BV have no symptoms. However, it can cause a watery vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odour, as well as burning and itching around the vaginal area.
A pregnant woman should discuss any vaginal itching, burning, or discharge with her doctor and get tested for BV when needed. A BV test involves taking a sample of fluid from the vagina and sending it to a lab for analysis. If the test is positive, you will likely undergo treatment with antibiotics.
Probably an Allergy
In some cases, minor vaginal itching may result from using scented laundry detergent or feminine products such as pads, tampons, or feminine deodorants. The itching will usually go away after a woman stops using these products.
To avoid this issue, you may choose to use products labelled “fragrance-free” or “unscented.” Pads and tampons, condoms and lubricants, shaving products, and even toilet paper can all be to blame (basically anything with added perfumes or chemicals, so stick with hypoallergenic stuff if you’re sensitive). Douching is also not recommended, as it may lead to vaginal irritation, BV, and yeast infections. Some women may have an allergic reaction to latex condoms, which may result in vaginal itching or irritation. People who suspect they might be allergic to latex condoms should ask their doctor about alternatives.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection that crops up anywhere in your urinary tract (read: kidneys, urethra, ureters, and bladder), and will commonly cause pelvic pain, a strong urge to pee, a burning sensation when you pee, and cloudy or foul-smelling urine.
It can also cause itching in the form of tingling, irritating sensation, especially if the infection is located near your urethra. You need to book an appointment with your doctor and get a urinalysis to check for the presence of bacteria (which an antibiotic can clear up).
Using Beauty Treatments
women have grown more preoccupied with the appearance of their vulvas, something attributed to the trend of having less hair down there. Which means many women have also tried out some pretty unconventional beauty treatments, like activated charcoal vulva masks (basically a facial for your vagina) and vaginal steaming. These are a no-no, not only because they’re totally unnecessary, but because they can cause reactions in the form of itching and irritation. The vulva tissue is the most sensitive, delicate tissue in the body, treat it with respect and a gentle hand. The less stuff you do to it, the better for your health.
Eczema or Psoriasis
Skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis can occur due to an allergy or autoimmune issue. Eczema often appears in the crevices of arms, in folds, the groin area, and on the labia, and psoriasis can also present on the vagina.
Most people with eczema and psoriasis are well-versed in the appearance (and treatment) of these red, patchy rashes, but if you’ve never had the symptoms before, make an appointment with your doctor.
Or Could it be Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)?
As the name says, STDs mean diseases contractable from an infected person during sex. Many STDs can cause vaginal itching, among other symptoms. It’s important to have STDs treated, as some may cause long-term problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and pregnancy complications. A woman can also pass certain STDs to her baby during childbirth.
This could have been avoided by using a condom but please consult a doctor immediately if you have had unprotected sex or contact with an infected person.
Pubic Lice (yuck, I know)
No one wants to think about bugs crawling around on any part of their body, but especially not down there. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what pubic lice (a.k.a., crabs) is: an easily transmittable infestation of little bugs in your genitals that makes you itch like crazy. There are two reasons for the itching: bites from the crabs and the eggs (nits) they lay on your skin, both of which cause irritation.
Having sex isn’t even the only way to get pubic lice. They’re passed from skin to skin, if you go to a dirty hotel and there are nits or lice in the sheets you slept on, and then you go home to your partner and have sex. Or maybe you loan someone your clothes and they had them, then you wear the pants and the crabs crawl into the vaginal area.
But they are treatable with the same medicine as used for head lice.
Yeast is a naturally occurring fungus that’s normally present in the vagina. It usually doesn’t cause problems, but when its growth goes unchecked, an uncomfortable infection can occur. This infection is known as a vaginal yeast infection and it’s a very common condition. The infection often occurs after taking a course of antibiotics, as these types of medications can destroy good bacteria along with the bad bacteria. The good bacteria are needed to keep yeast growth in check.
The overgrowth of yeast in the vagina can result in uncomfortable symptoms, including itching, burning, and clumpy discharge.
Hormonal Changes and Perimenopause
When your hormones fluctuate during your menstrual cycle, you might end up with drier vaginal tissue than normal, which can cause annoying itching and irritation. Perimenopause (a.k.a., that time period before you actually start menopause) is a more common reason for vaginal dryness and itching, due to a drop in estrogen levels.
Waxing or Shaving Irritation
Your bikini area is just as sensitive—if not more so—to razor burns and irritation from shaving or waxing your hair. When we wax or shave anywhere on the body we disrupt the skin’s integrity, redness, itching, and burning can occur if you’re sensitive to it. Applying hypoallergenic cream or lotions to protect the skin, as well as keeping it dry and clean. If it’s becoming an ongoing problem for you, you may have to stop waxing, wax less frequently or change up your shaving products to something gentler on your skin.
Is another dermatology issue, like eczema or psoriasis, lichen sclerosis is a patchy white rash that causes intense itching and often pops up in your genital area (though it can appear on other parts of the body, too). It can be treated with a prescription-strength topical steroid, but a lichen sclerosis rash can often mimic vulvar cancer, so its presence may complicate things a little. After treating this, go and visit the doctor for a checkup. Vulvar cancer is very rare in young adults but don’t take that risk.
Although vaginal itching can be embarrassing or bothersome, most cases of it can be treated by consulting a doctor. To help avoid possible long-term health problems, it’s best to push aside any embarrassment and determine the cause of the itching, so proper treatment can be provided.