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There are several possible reasons for itching around the vulva and vagina. They include irritation due to contact with fabrics or scented soaps, allergies, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and certain skin conditions.
The vulva is the outer part of female genitals, including the lips, clitoris, bladder opening, and vaginal opening. The vagina is the internal tube that leads from the uterus to the vulva.
People may experience itching around the vulva or inside the vagina. The specific symptoms and treatments will depend on the cause.
This article provides an overview of some common causes of vaginal and vulvar itching, along with links to more detailed articles.
Minor vulvar itching often results from using products that irritate the sensitive skin around the genitals. These may include:
- menstrual pads
- certain materials in underwear
- underwear washed with scented laundry detergent
- creams, soaps, or lotions, especially scented brands
- latex condoms
- fragrances in deodorants or douches
The itching will usually go away after the person stops using these products. Fragrance-free and unscented products are less likely to cause irritation.
Healthcare professionals do not recommend using products to clean the vagina. The vagina cleans itself. Douches and other vaginal cleaning products can cause irritation and impair its ability to clean itself.
Friction or chafing from underwear, skin folds, or sexual activity can also cause itching in this area.
Avoid scratching or rubbing the skin when it feels itchy, as this can make the itching worse.
People who suspect that they might be allergic to latex can ask their doctor about alternatives to latex condoms. Latex-free condoms are available to buy over the counter and online.
Many females will experience a vaginal yeast infection, or vaginal candidiasis, during their lifetime. Yeast infections develop due to an overgrowth of Candida in the vagina.
Yeast infections are not usually serious, but the symptoms can be bothersome.
Symptoms of yeast overgrowth can include:
- vaginal itching or burning
- odorless white or clear discharge
- vaginal irritation
Yeast infections usually occur when something upsets the balance of bacteria in the vagina.
Normally, a balance of beneficial bacteria and yeast live in the vagina. The bacteria keep the yeast in check, preventing overgrowth. When the vagina’s bacteria do not properly control the yeast, however, overgrowth can occur.
Some common causes of yeast infections include hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy or due to using hormonal birth control, and using a douche.
People can also develop a yeast infection from using antibiotics. Having a suppressed immune system or uncontrolled diabetes may also increase the risk of yeast infections.
Learn more about yeast infections and how to get rid of them here.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common bacterial infection. It often affects females of childbearing age. It occurs when there is an imbalance of the normal beneficial bacteria in the vagina.
People can have BV with no symptoms. If symptoms do arise, they may
- itching, pain, or burning inside the vagina
- itching around the outside of the vagina
- thin white or gray vaginal discharge
- an unpleasant odor, especially after sex
It can be difficult to tell the difference between BV and a yeast infection. Learn more here.
Healthcare professionals do not know the exact causes of BV, but some have linked sexual activity and douching to the condition.
It affects people who are sexually active, but it is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Many females have BV without knowing it. This can be harmful if they become pregnant. If a woman has symptoms while pregnant or trying to become pregnant, they should see their doctor to find out the cause.
Learn more about BV and how to treat it here.
Common skin conditions can cause itching around the vulva. These include:
- seborrheic dermatitis
- allergic contact dermatitis
- dermographism, or skin writing
Severe itching around the vulva can indicate lichen sclerosus or lichen planus.
If a person suspects any of these skin conditions, they can work with their healthcare professional to find the best treatment strategies.
STIs are a group of infections that a person can contract after having sexual contact with a person who has one.
Various STIs can cause vaginal or vulvar itching or discomfort, including:
It is important to seek treatment for STIs, as some can cause long-term problems, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, or pregnancy complications. Women can also pass certain STIs to the baby during childbirth.
A person should always seek treatment if they suspect an STI.
Less commonly, healthcare professionals may look for neuropathy or vulvar cancer.
Neuropathy, or nerve damage, is a well-known cause of itching.
Vulvar cancer causes symptoms
Vulvar and vaginal itching are common and have many potential causes. In many cases, the itching is due to irritation from clothing, menstrual products, or fragrances. Avoiding these triggers can help prevent the itching.
In other cases, fungal or bacterial infections may be the cause. This is more likely when the itching affects the inside of the vagina.
Some skin conditions can also cause itching around the genitals, including psoriasis, folliculitis, and seborrheic dermatitis.
A healthcare professional can usually diagnose the cause and suggest some appropriate treatments. In most cases, the cause is treatable.