Mild itching of the clitoris can occur due to an increase in sensitivity from sexual arousal or stimulation. Persistent itching that arises outside of sexual activity or does not go away may signal an infection or health condition.
The clitoris is a small, round part of the female anatomy that sits above the opening of the vagina. It is very sensitive and has many nerve endings, so itching here can be particularly bothersome.
In this article, we look at the possible causes of itching on or around the clitoris and the treatment options.
The clitoris is very sensitive and contains many nerve endings. When something irritates this area of the body, it may feel itchy.
Irritants could include a certain material that the underwear comprises, for example, a scratchy fabric.
Alternatively, it could be a new laundry detergent or soap. A person can try switching these products to see whether this solves the problem.
During sexual arousal, blood flow to the clitoris increases, and this organ swells up, which makes it more susceptible to irritation.
Sometimes, a person may feel temporary itching before, during, or after sexual arousal. This itching usually goes away by itself and is not a cause for concern. However, a person should look out for other signs and symptoms to make sure that the itching is not due to an infection.
If the levels of bacteria in the vagina become unbalanced, this can cause an infection called bacterial vaginosis. Doctors do not know the exact cause of bacterial vaginosis, but the following factors may increase a person's risk of getting the infection:
- having sex, particularly with a new partner
- having multiple sexual partners
- vaginal douching
Bacterial vaginosis can cause itching of the clitoris and the area around the vagina. Other common symptoms include:
- a burning sensation when urinating
- pain or a burning sensation in the vagina
- grey or white vaginal discharge
- a fishy odor, particularly after sex
Anyone who thinks that they might have bacterial vaginosis should see their doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.
A vaginal yeast infection, which people usually refer to as thrush, can make the clitoris and other parts of the vulva very itchy. Other symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection affect the vagina and vulva and can include:
- a burning sensation
- redness and swelling
- painful urination
- painful sex
- thick, white vaginal discharge that resembles cottage cheese but does not have a bad odor
An overgrowth of yeast called Candida causes these infections. People who think that they have a vaginal yeast infection should see their doctor to get treatment and rule out any other infections.
People may be more at risk of getting a vaginal yeast infection if they:
- have diabetes or high blood sugar
- are pregnant
- use birth control that increases estrogen levels
- douche or use chemical sprays or washes in their vagina
- have taken certain antibiotics recently
- have a weakened immune system
Lichen sclerosus is a noncontagious skin disorder that affects the genitals. It can also involve the skin around the breasts, upper body, and upper part of the arms.
Although the cause of lichen sclerosus is unknown, experts believe that it might occur due to:
- changes in hormones
- damage to the skin through injury
- having an overactive immune system
Along with itching, other symptoms of lichen sclerosus can appear in the affected area. These may include:
- scarring of the skin
- small white spots that may grow bigger
- patches of thin, wrinkled skin
- skin that tears or bruises easily
A person should see their doctor if they think that they have lichen sclerosus. The doctor may inspect the skin using a microscope to diagnose the condition.
Persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD) is a long lasting sensation of sexual arousal without any sexual stimulation. It is much more common among females than males.
Symptoms of PGAD affect the genital area and can include:
- a burning sensation
- increased pressure in the genitals
- contractions in the vagina
The duration of symptoms can vary from a few hours to several weeks or even months.
The symptoms of genital eczema can affect the vulva, as well as the skin around the anus and buttocks.
People may experience:
- a red rash or sore patches on the skin
- thin cracks in the skin
- weeping, crusty, or dry skin
- a stinging or burning sensation
An allergic reaction to clothing, bathing products, or medication can cause genital eczema.
Itching of the clitoris and genital area can signify a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Other common symptoms of STIs can include:
- painful urination
- frequent need to urinate
- unusual vaginal discharge or odor
- redness around the genitals
- stomach pain
- anal bleeding
- sores around the mouth
- warts around the genitals
It is best to see a doctor about any of these symptoms to find out what is causing them and to receive treatment if necessary.
Itching of the clitoris can sometimes be a symptom of vulvar cancer. Other symptoms depend on the type of vulvar cancer, but they can include:
- an area of skin on the vulva that looks different than the surrounding areas — for example, it appears lighter, darker, or thicker
- skin that looks red or pink compared with the surrounding areas
- a painful or burning sensation
- unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge
- an open sore that does not go away
- a lump or bump on the vulva
- a change in a mole in the genital area
People should see their doctor if they notice any of these signs. The doctor will carry out a pelvic examination to check for any abnormalities.
Treatment options for an itchy clitoris will depend on the underlying cause of the itching.
If a vaginal yeast infection is causing this symptom, a doctor can provide antifungal medicine to treat the infection. They will usually advise using antibiotics to treat bacterial vaginosis and topical steroid creams to treat eczema.
A doctor may prescribe a cream or ointment to treat lichen sclerosus. This topical treatment should soothe the itching sensation as well as treating the condition.
People may be able to find relief from PGAD by following the guidance of their doctor, who may recommend:
- topical creams that numb the genitals
- pelvic floor exercises
- anti-seizure medication
- electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which provides brief electrical stimulation to the brain
- surgery, if problems with the nerves are likely to be contributing to the condition
People may find relief from the itching by wearing loose cotton underwear and clothing. Applying a cool compress or ice pack to the affected area and avoiding using chemical bathing products may also relieve irritation and prevent further symptoms.
It is especially important for anyone who is pregnant to see their doctor and find out the underlying cause of an itching clitoris. Receiving a checkup and any necessary treatment for infections can help prevent possible complications with the birth.
Occasional clitoris itching can be normal, but a person should see their doctor if they have persistent itching of the clitoris. A doctor will be able to carry out a pelvic examination to determine the underlying cause and recommend treatment options.