It's the type of itchiness that follows you to bed, haunts your dreams and wakes you up in the morning before your alarm—oh, itchy vagina, I hate you more than jetlag, the flu and sunburns combined!
When you're itchin' down below, that itch that just never feels scratched is generally known as, "vaginitis," and is the result of inflammation in the body. Now, before you jump to conclusions, yes, it may be a sign of an STI, but the most important thing to remember is that there are numerous causes for an itchy vag and most of them can be remedied easily.
That annoying, persistent itch is likely the result of changes in your pH due to an increase in vaginal bacteria or yeast. The main risk of any vaginal inflammation that goes undiagnosed is an increased risk of getting an STD, but as long as you get treatment quickly, you should be ok!
So, to help put your mind at ease (and think about something other than the scratching) let's take a look at some of the other common causes of vaginal itching.
A yeast infection is the result of an overgrowth of a type of fungus known as Candida, or yeast, and causes itching, irritation and discharge. Some common yeast infection symptoms that may signal you've got a little too much fungus down there include:
- Redness and swelling
- Pain and soreness
- White or yellow cottage cheese-like discharge
If you're feeling a bit yeasty, worry not—you can easily find relief from yeast infections with antifungal medications or preventative supplements, such as probiotics. With proper treatment, these infections clear up in under a week.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection caused by a change in the vagina's typical balance of bacteria. This is different from a yeast infection, and BV often causes only mild symptoms (that are often ignored). However, about 50% of the time, women experience prominent itching and irritation, as well as:
- Burning during urination
- Fishy odor
- Thin discharge (often white, gray or green)
Not a fan of smelling like seafood? BV can be easily remedied with prescription medication that begins working in 24 hours. In addition, wisp offers a variety of BV home remedies to help you self-manage these symptoms.
Bacterial Vaginosis may seem like it falls in the "nice to get rid of" rather than the "must get rid of" category of health, but ignoring BV can lead to long-term health complications, including infertility and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) are often stigmatized by "grown-up-high-schoolers" who never grew out of the "ewww" phase of childhood—but they're mostly curable, and all are manageable with proper treatment! Let's take a look at some of the most common STIs that can cause itching:
Genital herpes is a very common sexually transmitted disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in every six humans from ages 14 to 49 have genital herpes—and a majority of them only experience mild or infrequent symptoms that they mistake for something else (pimples or acne, blisters, etc.). However, if you've got an itch down there, take a minute to consider if you have any of the other following symptoms:
- Small blisters/sores
- Flu-like symptoms
- Swollen lymph nodes
If these symptoms check out, you may have genital herpes. While there is no cure for herpes yet, it is a very common and manageable condition to treat. Wisp offers affordable medication and all natural herpes remedies to help you get rid of herpes symptoms now, prevent future outbreaks and reduce the risk of passing the virus on to sexual partners.
Chlamydia is another very common STI whose symptoms are often mistaken to be something else. If you experience vaginal itching, you shouldn't immediately rule it out, especially if you are also experiencing any of the following:
- Abnormal discharge
- Pelvic pain/cramping
- It hurts when you pee
While there are no known home remedies for Chlamydia, you can easily cure chlamydia with a course of prescription antibiotics. Talk to a wisp doctor today if you suspect you have been exposed to chlamyida.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Gonorrhea symptoms can range from mild and unnoticeable to severe and painful in advanced stages. If you experience the following symptoms in addition to vaginal itching, you may have acquired the gonorrhea infection during sex:
- Burning during urination
- Vaginal discharge
- It hurts when you have sex
Like all STIs, Gonorrhea must be diagnoses with an in-person lab test, but if you are confident you were exposed, treatment can begin with prescription antibiotics so you can get back to being itch-free in no time.
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted parasitic infection, caused by the parasite Trichomonas Vaginalis. Trich is the one of the most common STIs in the United States and is completely curable with a course of antibiotics! Check out our checklist of trich-y symptoms:
- Vaginal burning and irritation
- Burning during urination
- A fishy-smelling discharge
Pubic lice are small insects that infest the genital area, typically within the pubic hair. You'll probably experience intense itching that often gets worse at night. As with any itching, give yourself a visual inspection to see if you notice anything crawling around down there. Along with visible insects, you may also have:
- Pale bluish marks/insect bites
Not a fan of creepy crawlies? You can get rid of pubic lice using over-the-counter remedies, such as lotions and shampoos. It is also recommended that you clean your home and wash your bed sheets to prevent recurrence.
Underlying Skin Conditions
While there are many conditions caused by infection, there are also some you're simply born with and that are completely normal. Take a look at some common underlying skin conditions that could be the source of that itch:
Lichen sclerosis is a skin condition that manifests as thinning, white and patchy skin. The condition is not permanent, and it can be treated with ointment or creams that can help calm the skin and reduce the risk of scarring. The condition can recur, but it does not typically pose a major health risk.
Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes patchy, bumpy or scaly skin. It is essentially caused by skin cells multiplying up to 10 times faster than average as an immune system response, and it can occur anywhere on the body. This condition is not contagious, and there are a variety of treatment options available that can greatly reduce symptoms.
Eczema is a blanket term for skin conditions that cause irritation or inflammation. In most cases, it is referring to atopic eczema, which is triggered by an allergic reaction. Eczema is not contagious and typically causes patches of itchy, red skin. You can manage this lifelong condition with holistic methods, such as lotions and creams and avoidance of allergens that are known to cause breakouts.
Other Causes of Vaginal Itching
While itching can be a major indicator of potential health risks and should be taken seriously. Many cases of vaginal itching are caused by sexual contact, poor hygiene or underlying infections, but it's important not to jump to conclusions without consulting with a health care professional. For example, the following conditions can all lead to an itchy vagina:
- Low estrogen levels
- Foreign object in vagina (tampon, condom, etc.)
- An intrauterine device (IUD)
- Certain medications (including antibiotics)
- Moist or skin-tight clothing
- Allergens/skin irritants (soaps, perfumes, chemicals, etc.)
- Cervical or vulvar cancer
Always Consult With a Medical Provider
It is important to remember that many causes of vaginal itching are not necessarily due to underlying disease or infection, and many can be easily cured or managed. Visit your gynecologist or set up an online consultation with a US licensed doctor about your symptoms or to schedule STI testing.