Itching in any part of your body can be very uncomfortable, but this is especially true when the itching occurs in your genital area. (Not to mention that it’s unflattering to be constantly scratching yourself!) The good news is that vaginal itching is a condition that many women experience. Here is everything you need to know about vaginal itching, its causes and symptoms, and what you need to do to prevent it or improve your condition.

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What is vaginal itching?

Vaginal itching is, quite simply, itching of the vagina or the surrounding area. According to Everyday Health, this occurs when the vagina becomes inflamed and often causes discharge and pain as well.

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In a video for Vagisil, gynecologist Dr. Althea O’Shaughnessy says that this condition is typically experienced in a woman’s vulvar area.

“Most itching and irritation isn’t a major concern but can be uncomfortable,” she explains. “Hormonal changes like your period, pregnancy, menopause, or when you’re taking a birth control pill can contribute to vulvar-vaginal itching.”

Causes and symptoms of vaginal itching

Dr. O’Shaughnessy says that the five possible causes of vaginal itching include bacterial vaginosis (BV), the overgrowth of bacteria normally existing in the vagina, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, or genital warts, yeast infection, menopause, and chemical irritants, such as laundry detergents, soap, and scented toilet paper.

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Healthline writes that, in rare cases, vaginal itching can also be caused by stress (when it weakens your immune system and makes you more prone to infections that can cause itching) or vulvar cancer, a type of cancer that develops in the vulva.

Another cause would be vaginal infection. According to Everyday Health, symptoms of vaginal infection also include swelling, pelvic pain, foul-smelling discharge, green, yellow, or gray discharge, and foamy or clumpy discharge.

Skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis may also lead to vaginal itching. Healthline describes eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) as a rash that usually happens to individuals with allergies or asthma. These rashes are reddish, itchy, and have a scaly texture. On the other hand, psoriasis is a condition that causes red, itchy, and scaly patches to show up on a person’s scalp and joints, though those symptoms can also occur on the vagina.

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Vaginal itching treatment and prevention

Again, most itching and irritation of the vagina is not something to be concerned about, but if the itching is persistent or severe or if you think you might have an underlying condition causing the itching, you should contact your doctor.

The National Health Service (NHS) also advises that you seek medical help if you have an unpleasant-smelling vaginal discharge, have not had vaginal infections before, you have had a vaginal infection before but the current symptoms are different, etc.

According to the NHS, treatment for vaginal itching depends on what caused it. For example, if your vaginal itching is caused by a yeast infection, you may be prescribed medicines, while if your vaginal itching is caused by bacterial infections, you may have to take antibiotics.

To prevent vaginal itching or improve your condition, there are several habits you can try right at home. First, the NHS advises keeping your genital area clean and dry by taking a warm bath (not a hot bath or bubble bath) and using unperfumed soap. Products like scented soaps and deodorants can cause chemical irritation, which can then cause vaginal itching.

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One more thing to avoid is douching or spraying water inside your vagina. Doing this worsens vaginal itching “by removing the healthy bacteria that line the vagina and help keep it free from infection.”

Other things you can try are changing out of damp or wet clothes after swimming or exercising, wearing cotton underwear and changing your underwear daily, and wiping from front to back after bowel movements.

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