Being a woman is not easy as there a lot of uncomfortable and embarrassing health conditions they have to go through sometimes like vaginal itching, burning and sense of dryness.
Itching or irritation anywhere on the body can cause discomfort. But when it occurs in an area as sensitive as the vagina and vulva, it can be particularly uncomfortable. When you are itchy “down there,” there is no end to the misery and discomfort. Vaginal itching is enough to drive anyone insane. It’s miserable, but you can’t scratch, especially not in public (and also not if you want to keep yourself healthy). But what is that itch? What are the causes behind it and how to get relief?
What causes vaginal itching, burning, and irritation?
There are several common causes of vaginal itching and irritation, including:
- Bacterial Infection (Vaginitis). It’s normal to have a healthy mix of bacteria in the vagina. But when the wrong bacteria grow it can cause an infection. In addition to the itchy sensation, there could be burning, pain, discharge and/or a bad fishy-smelling odor.
- Diseases transmitted through sexual contact (STD). Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, genital herpes, and Trichomoniasis, are common causes of vaginal/vulvar itching and irritation. In Trichomoniasis, affected women often notice a foamy-looking discharge, bad vaginal odor and swelling in addition to itchiness.
- Fungal infection (vaginal candidiasis). This extremely common problem can cause about three out of every four women to develop a yeast infection at some stage in their lives. Candida may normally be found in your vagina without causing any symptoms as long as there is a balance between the fungi and the normal bacterial flora of your vagina. Any imbalance causing destruction of the bacterial flora leads to excessive proliferation of the fungi and subsequent infection. Pregnancy, intake of broad-spectrum antibiotics, intake of steroids, and a weakened immune system may make women more likely to get a fungal (yeast) infection. Along with itching and irritation, candida infection may cause a thick, white, cheesy discharge.
- Menopause. The expected drop in estrogen production that occurs by the end of a woman’s reproductive years can cause the vaginal walls to thin and dry out. This can lead to itching and irritation.
- Chemical irritants. Certain chemical substances can be irritating to the vagina and vulva of some women in comparison to others, including creams, douches, soaps and laundry detergents, bubble baths, feminine sprays, as well as fabric softeners.
- Allergic Reaction. An overlooked reason for vaginal itching is allergies. People may be allergic to some materials without even knowing them. Some allergies are mild and inconsistent. You may overlook the symptoms if the allergy is mild. For example, If you wear clothes that were washed with laundry detergents that you may be allergic to, it can lead to your vagina itching. Detergents may not always be the cause. It may be certain types of soap as well These products are usually used near the vagina and can have chemicals that you’re sensitive to.
Is douching necessary?
Douching is an internal vaginal cleaning process that is favored by many women after menstruation and intimate intercourse. Like harsh soaps, douching upsets the pH of the vagina and disrupts its natural cleaning functions, making dryness and itchiness more likely. The vagina is adapted to deal with natural processes, like menstruation and sex, so vaginal douching is unnecessary; using warm water is sufficient for washing.
When to Seek Medical Help
It is important to see your Gynecologist for vaginal itching when you are unable to identify the cause or if the itching is severe enough to disrupt your daily life or sleep. Most genital itching and irritation isn’t a major concern. But because they can be symptoms of an infection, it’s always a good idea to call your gynecologist who can determine the cause of your itching through an examination and possible testing. She will be able to recommend the most appropriate line of management to help you get rid of this uncomfortable symptom.
Always be on the alert for unusual symptoms that could signify an ensuing vaginal infection, notably Itching, Swelling, discharge, bad odor, burning micturition, painful blisters on the vulva, and pelvic pain.
Home Care for Vaginal Itching
To prevent vaginal irritation and infection, there are several steps you can take at home.
- Avoid using feminine hygiene products as feminine sprays, and scented pads, bubble baths, as these can cause irritation.
- Use water and a plain, unscented soap to regularly clean your external genital area. But don’t wash more than once a day. Doing so can increase dryness.
- Use your hands only to wash. Do not use washcloths, loofahs, and such.
- For ladies who wipe after bowel movement, always do the wiping from front to back.
- When exercising or swimming, change out of wet or damp clothing immediately afterward.
- Wear cotton underwear, which is breathable and will keep you dry.
- Do not douche. It is not helpful or necessary and sometimes can lead to vaginal infections
- Do not use any over-the-counter products for vulvar or vaginal itching.
- Do not scratch! Scratching and rubbing will make your symptoms worse. If you cannot stop scratching, contact your Gynecologist to be evaluated.
I wish you everlasting health,
Dr. Amaya Carreras
University of Barcelona – Spain