Vaginal itch is irritating as heck, and it can begin to consume your life. Pretty soon, you’re analyzing clothing in terms of what touches your irritated womanly parts and what doesn’t. You bemoan sitting, standing, or just being in public places for any length of time and relish trips to the bathroom where you can alleviate your discomfort in private.
The good news is that vaginal itch and irritation is almost always “diagnosable” (although it by no means indicates you have a medical problem) and treatable. If you have persistent or unusual vaginal itching or irritation, please visit your OB/GYN or midwife to figure out what’s going on.
Suffering From Vaginal Itch? Most Likely It’s From One of These Common Causes
If you’re currently suffering from vaginal itch, our guess is that it is from one of the following common causes. While you don’t have to see your OB/GYN at first, if a week or two goes by without any relief, we recommend you make an appointment with a list of your “already tried that” solutions in hand.
Bacterial Vaginosis. Don’t just assume you have a yeast infection! Did you know that your vagina is laden with billions of living organisms? Yes! In the medical world, we’ll even say “vaginal flora,” meaning “vaginal plants,” to refer to the bacteria, yeast and other microbes that take up residence there. When you are healthy and all systems are in balance, these microorganisms are hardly noticeable. However, when things get out of whack – vaginal itching is one of the first signs.
Bacterial vaginosis – one of the most common causes of vaginal itch and discomfort – occurs when the “bad” bacteria outnumber the “good.” If you have a healthy immune system and a small case, it may go away on its own. If it progresses, you may need antibiotics.
Symptoms of bacterial vaginosis are:
- Itching around the vulva and into the vagina
- A foul odor (this odor will be much stronger after sexual intercourse)
- Thin discharge that is greyish-white and sometimes yellow
It can be caused by any number of things, such as a new sexual partner (it’s no reflection on him, just an introduction of foreign bacteria to your nether-regions), stress, a compromised immune system or the introduction of a foreign bacteria from any number of sources. If you try over-the-counter remedies that aren’t effective in the timeframe the instructions indicate, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Yeast infection. Yeast, Candida albicans, are a part of that aforementioned vaginal flora. They can bloom out of control when there aren’t enough bacteria to keep them in check. Symptoms of a yeast infection are a little different than symptoms of bacterial vaginosis. For one thing, your vaginal odor won’t change much at all – unless you are able to detect the slightly yeasty scent (think beer or bread dough) of your discharge.
Symptoms of a yeast infection include:
- More than normal discharge that is thick, whitish and may resemble cottage cheese
- Itching and burning on the vulva and vagina
- If you grab a mirror to take a look, your interior parts will look red and maybe even flaky or swollen
- It can burn or sting when you urinate or have sex
Yeast infections are particularly common after using antibiotics, during pregnancy or times of hormonal fluctuation, when you are stressed or using certain forms of birth control. Sugary diets and diabetes can also cause it. Unlike bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections are contagious so if you have one, it’s a good idea to treat your partner as well because, although he may not have signs or symptoms, he can continue to pass it back to you.
Sexually transmitted diseases. Not surprisingly, certain STDs can cause vaginal irritation or itching, like herpes, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, chlamydia – and others. ALWAYS use a condom when you have sex with a new partner, when you are in a non-monogamous relationship, if you suspect your partner is not monogamous with you, or if he has sex with men.
If you are uninsured or your insurance doesn’t cover STD tests (very rare) take advantage of free and low-cost STD screening through a local health clinic. If you do have an STD, your positive results will lead you to the treatment you need (no more itching, halleluiah!) and will prevent you from spreading it to someone else.
Allergies or contact dermatitis. If you experience vaginal itching or irritation without extra discharge or symptoms of the above conditions, your body may be reacting to something it’s coming into contact with. This can be a seemingly infinite list of things, from detergents and fabric softener to soaps, shampoos or your shaving cream.
Symptoms of a contact dermatitis include:
- Vaginal itch, burn or irritation
- Red, inflamed or even toughened/swollen skin
- A lack of the strong odor or discharge associated with other infections
Even condoms, lubricants and scented toilet paper can cause persistent vaginal irritation so you might really have to work on a “daily usage elimination diet” to determine the source. To start, try switching to hypoallergenic products and avoid those with fragrance, perfumes or synthetic chemicals to see what happens.
Would you like to talk to a sensitive OB or midwife about your vaginal itch? Contact Women’s Health Associates to schedule an appointment.