If your vagina — or vulva — is itchy, it’s not only annoying, but it can be concerning as well. While there are many different causes, some are more common than others, and there is good news — treatment is available for whatever is ailing your nether regions.
The problem: A yeast infection is one of the most common causes of vaginal itching. “A yeast infection occurs when the balance of organisms present in a healthy vagina is disrupted, resulting in an overgrowth of yeast, typically candida albicans, Dr. Peter Rizk, an OB-GYN with Fairhaven Health tells SheKnows.
“In addition to the telltale itchiness of a yeast infection, you may also notice pain or burning upon urination or intercourse,” he adds. “Additionally, a thick, white discharge may also occur.”
The solution: A yeast infection will typically respond to antifungal treatment, which can be purchased over-the-counter or be prescribed by a doctor, but it’s important to see a medical care provider to get an accurate diagnosis so you’re treating the problem correctly.
The problem: While yeast infections are common, there is another baddie that can lead to vaginal itchiness — and it’s not yeast. Instead, it’s an overgrowth of bacteria that can be accompanied by vaginal discharge, burning and an unpleasant odor, according to Rizk.
The solution: Bacterial vaginosis requires a doctor visit for both diagnosis and treatment, which is in the form of antibiotics.
The problem: A damp crotch isn’t just uncomfortable — it can lead to an unpleasant bout of itching, explains Dr. Tami Prince, an OB-GYN and medical director at U.S. HealthWorks. Dampness can come from many sources: mild urinary incontinence, non-breathable undies or excessive sweating without changing your drawers.
The solution: Air out your vulva every now and then, wear cotton underpants, wear panty-liners if occasional leaking is a problem (and feel free to visit your OB-GYN to look into urinary incontinence as well) and change your bottoms after exercising.
The problem: Vaginal or vulvar itching can be caused by something as simple as the soap or laundry detergent you use, and it can develop even if you’ve been using the product for years, says Dr. Robin Evans, a dermatologist at Southern Connecticut Dermatology. The sensitive skin in this area is at risk of developing irritation from something it comes into contact with, which is known as contact dermatitis. Soap and detergent can cause this, but also wipes, shaving creams, condoms and lubes.
The solution: This may be a matter of whittling down the products that you expose your vulva to in order to figure out which one is the culprit behind your irritation. If you’d rather avoid guesswork, a dermatologist can conduct allergy patch testing (usually on your back), which can help identify the cause.
The problem: As long as we’re living, we’re also aging, and while being alive is good, aging affects all the structures of our bodies, including our skin. Aging skin, however, can be found in areas other than our face, and yes, we mean the skin you find in your pants.
“During and after menopause, estrogen levels are significantly lower than they were while you were still ovulating, and this can lead to thinning of the vulvar and vaginal skin,” says Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a board-certified dermatologist who often sees patients in her practice who have been referred by their gynecologists. “This can cause a chronic irritation, itch or burning sensation and can increase the risk of skin tears in the vulvovaginal area,” she adds.
The solution: Your doctor can prescribe topical or oral estrogen replacement that can improve your itchy-parts problem.
The problem: Lichen sclerosus is another specific rash that can appear in the vulvar area, says Evans. “It is important to identify and diagnose this rash (which is typically done with a skin biopsy) because of the potential development of scarring and skin cancer in these areas,” she says.
The solution: This requires a doctor visit, as mentioned, and if this is your diagnosis, your doctor will probably prescribe a topical corticosteroid, which you will then apply to the affected area.
Get yourself to a doctor
It’s important to get a proper diagnosis if you experience more than a little occasional itching, as persistent itching really needs to be evaluated by a physician. While some causes of itching, such as constant undies wetness, can be remedied at home, other causes will need a doctor’s input and treatment, but don’t worry — you can and will get help so your girly parts will be happy again.