Vaginal itching is sometimes painful and can cause extreme discomfort, but it is incredibly common among women. You know that when the delicate areas of the vagina, clitoris and vulva are inflamed and irritated, your entire day can be ruined.
There are many possible reasons that your vagina may be irritated, including bacterial vaginosis, sexually transmitted diseases, a yeast infection or menopause.
The use of chemical irritants such as creams, douches and condoms can also cause itching. Many women are sensitive to contraceptive foams, fabric softeners, laundry detergents and scented toilet paper, too. There is also a condition called lichen sclerosus that can make white patches form on the skin around the vulva and scar the vagina.
How can a woman know if the symptoms are abnormal?
The vagina usually produces a discharge that is clear to milky white. This discharge is created by the glands in the cervix and vaginal walls and has a thick, thin or pasty texture. Normal vaginal discharge may have an unpleasant odor or no odor at all. Once it is exposed to air, it turns white or yellow in color.
If you do not have an infection, the vaginal itching may go away on its own. An allergy to soaps and scented toilet paper can be cured by simply not using these products, particularly near your vagina. However, if you are having vaginal discharge that is foul smelling and has a change in color, you may have an infection. Abnormal discharge can be thick, white and clumpy or green and yellowish in color and produce a foul-smelling odor.
When should you see your gynecologist for vaginal itching symptoms?
If your vagina is red, itchy, and you are feeling tired and weak with a fever, you should see your gynecologist. These symptoms may stem from an infection that requires antibiotics. This type of infection can cause a green, yellow and cheesy discharge to develop in the vagina. The signs of abnormal discharge may include the skin around your vagina and vulva becoming inflamed, and you may bleed and spot in between your periods.
Common Causes for Feminine Itching
Bacterial vaginosis is an infection often caused by smoking, unprotected sex and douching. When you douche, you disturb the vagina’s natural bacteria, and new sex partners can throw off flora as well. Using scented soaps, lotions and perfumes can bring on bacterial vaginosis too. Having anal sex, the IUD birth control device, swimming in pools and using public toilet seats can also cause this infection.
Since the balance of bacteria in your vagina is sensitive, it is important to take precautionary measures to maintain a healthy environment. You can do this by replacing the body’s good bacteria and avoiding the use of scented products near your vagina. The symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include a thin, white, gray or green discharge, and a burning sensation when you urinate. There is also a fishy smell that exudes from the vagina that gets stronger after sex.
Yeast infections are common among women and are caused by the candida fungus. This fungus is naturally present in the vagina, but when it grows out of control becomes a painful infection. This infection occurs when there is an imbalance of healthy bacteria and yeast in the vagina. Although most infections are cleared easily, some are persistent and difficult to cure. If your immune system is weak, fighting off yeast can be harder than normal and allow the infection to flourish.
A women can develop a yeast infection if she eats too much sugar, is diabetic and when under stress. When her hormones are not leveled due to pregnancy, menopause or taking birth control pills, yeast tend to thrive. The use of antibiotics, douches and vaginal sprays can also cause yeast infections. Even though yeast is not a sexually transmitted disease, it can be spread from one person to another during sexual contact.
The symptoms of a yeast infection include a thick, white, odorless discharge that looks like cottage cheese. Your vagina and vulva become swollen, red, and extremely irritated and itchy. You may experience pain during sex, frequent urination and burning when you pee.
Chemical irritants may irritate your vagina and cause itching and burning because of their toxic ingredients. The use of scented pads, toilet paper and feminine sprays can bring about allergic reactions and irritations. So can bathing in a bubble bath, douching and washing with perfumed soaps. In order to avoid vaginal itching, you should refrain from using odorized toiletries. You should also wear cotton panties, avoid douching and wipe front to back after urination to avoid vaginal irritation.
When a woman reaches menopause, the hormones in her body drastically change. The drop in estrogen levels not only bring on hot flashes and night sweats, but she begins to experience vaginal dryness. This change in chemistry makes the vaginal walls become thin and dry out. The reduction in tissue causes the vagina to become itchy and irritated. To decrease these uncomfortable symptoms a physician may prescribe estrogen tablets, creams or ring inserts.
Common Hormone or pH Imbalances
Besides the changes in hormones due to menopause, your body goes through hormonal changes during the month that come and go. Your hormone levels change when you are pregnant, have your period or taking birth control pills. When your body goes through these changes, estrogen and pH levels are knocked off balance and can contribute to vaginal itchiness and dryness.
What are the common treatments for vaginal itchiness?
The way your symptoms are treated will depend on the cause for your vaginal itchiness. If you have a yeast infection, you will need an anti-fungal cream or a pill to alleviate your symptoms. Your gynecologist can often prescribe oral medication to get rid of the yeast. An over-the-counter cream is sometimes also effective when trying to eliminate a yeast infection.
Bacterial vaginosis is remedied by creating a balanced level between the good and bad bacteria in your vagina. Antibiotics will remedy this infection along with reintroducing healthy bacteria into your system. Some women take natural supplements that include probiotics to help them feel better.
If chemical irritants are the cause of your discomfort, stop using scented soaps and feminine sprays, and avoid harsh laundry detergents. You should discontinue douching and wearing underwear made of synthetic materials, too. Allow your vagina to breathe and wear panties made of natural fibers. Since the side effects of menopause contribute to vaginal discomfort, you may wish to use a lubricant to soothe the itchiness.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Products and Prescription Medications
There are several over-the-counter products available to help with these unpleasant symptoms. You can find creams to cure normal yeast infections and lubricants to help with the signs of menopause. As long as you don’t have an infection that requires antibiotics, these products are a safe alternative for most. Your gynecologist can prescribe stronger medications such as estrogen-enhanced medications for menopause, or antibiotics for bacterial vaginosis.
If you have abnormal vaginal itching that may indicate a more serious underlying cause, it is imperative that you make an appointment to see your gynecologist immediately. Your doctor can give you a thorough exam and let you know if you have a more serious condition and how to treat it.
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