Chances are, you’ve experienced itching “down there” at one time or another in your life and may have some questions: Why does my vagina itch? What causes vaginal itching? How do I get rid of vaginal itching and prevent it in the future? And is vaginal itching normal?
These are important questions and ones that I address fully in my new book, Is This Normal? Remember that just because something is a common symptom many women experience doesn’t mean it is normal or something that you have to accept and live with. And this book is a must-have resource for all your questions about your vagina, period, hormones, and health.
There are many possible causes of vaginal itching, and understanding what is driving your symptoms is essential for finding the best treatment approach. Keep reading to learn more about causes and solutions. Spoiler: sometimes, the solution is a simple lifestyle or product change.
Is Vaginal Itching Normal?
While “vaginal itching” is the common language used to describe the symptom, we are usually talking about itching on the vulva, the external female genitalia. Itching inside the vagina is less common than itching externally.
For a crash course on female anatomy, please read my Vagina Guide – Your Vagina: Everything You Need to Know.
Symptoms of vulvar itching may range from mild to raging and often go along with other symptoms such as burning, discharge, rashes, and more.
As I mentioned, just because a symptom is common doesn’t mean it’s normal. And it’s not normal for your vulva to itch all the time. In fact, itching is a sign that something is going on, and it’s time to do some investigation.
Causes of Vaginal Itching
There are many possible causes of vaginal and vulvar itching, and getting to the bottom of it might require a trip to your gynecologist. Be sure to check in with your provider if the itching doesn’t go away or gets worse and is accompanied by other symptoms.
Some possible causes of vaginal itching include:
- Lichen planus and lichen sclerosis
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Yeast infection
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Contact dermatitis
- Eczema or psoriasis
- Hormone changes
- Vulvar cancer
Lichen Planus and Lichen Sclerosis
Lichen planus and lichen sclerosis are inflammatory, autoimmune skin conditions that can occur anywhere in the body but most often on the vulva. Both can cause changes in the skin, including color change, scarring, thinning, and tearing. Itching may be one of the first signs of skin change.
Lichen sclerosis and lichen planus are often underdiagnosed and undertreated. Without treatment, they may progress and increase the risk of vulvar cancer.
Bacterial vaginosis, or BV, is an overgrowth of normal bacteria that causes the vaginal pH to rise. (note: vaginas are supposed to be acidic). Symptoms include itching, irritation, discharge, and a fishy odor.
Learn everything you need to know in this article: Bacterial Vaginosis: Causes, Symptoms, and 5 Natural Treatments.
A yeast infection has similar symptoms to bacterial vaginosis, but the overgrowth is fungal instead of bacterial. Along with vaginal burning and itching, symptoms may include discharge and a red vulva.
The acidic vaginal environment inhibits the growth of candida (yeast). However, a change in pH caused by the overuse of antibiotics, blood sugar dysregulation, hormonal birth control, and other factors creates the perfect condition for yeast to thrive.
To dive deeper into yeast infections, read Yeast Infection Natural Remedies.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, are infections transmitted via unprotected sex. Many STIs will produce itching, along with other symptoms. STIs that may cause vulvar or vaginal itching include:
- HPV (human papilloma virus), also known as genital warts
- Pubic lice
If you want to learn more about these STIs and others, along with differentiating symptoms and prevention strategies, read: What Are STIs and How to Prevent Them.
Sometimes the itching is caused by things that come in contact with the delicate skin of the vulva. Contact dermatitis is irritation and inflammation of the skin due to contact with a chemical or physical material.
Symptoms of contact dermatitis include itching, redness, swelling, and a rash. Contact dermatitis on the vulva may be due to chemicals and fragrances added to the following:
- Laundry detergent
- Bubble bath
- Menstrual products
- Underwear fabric
- Toilet paper
In addition to these everyday products, irritation and itching may also be side effects of creams or prescriptions used on the vulva or in the vagina.
Phexxi is a hormone-free prescription birth control where you apply a gel inside the vagina before sex. Unfortunately, Phexxi may be a potential cause of vaginal itching. Other side effects of this medication include vaginal burning, discharge, yeast infections, BV, and urinary tract infections.
Learn more about Phexxi and other forms of birth control in The Contraception Guide.
If you’ve recently started using a new product and developed itching shortly after, stop using that product and see if your symptoms resolve.
Eczema and Psoriasis
Eczema and psoriasis are skin conditions that produce a red and often itchy rash. We typically think of these affecting the face or hands, but they can occur anywhere on the body.
The transition of perimenopause into menopause affects the genitourinary system and skin of the vagina and vulva. Low estrogen levels affect the vaginal microbiome and cause vaginal dryness. With dry vaginal tissue, itching is more likely to occur, along with other symptoms such as recurrent infections, including BV, yeast, and UTIs.
If you are ready to dive deep into the vaginal microbiome and learn more about how hormonal changes in midlife affect vulvar and vaginal health, read Vaginal Dryness and the Vaginal Flora.
Vulvar cancer is rare and typically diagnosed in older women, but it is another cause of vaginal itching. Itching occurs along with skin changes such as lesions and pain. I list vulvar cancer here to highlight the importance of going to your doctor when you notice new symptoms — including symptoms that seem benign — like itching.
How to Relieve Vaginal Itching
When considering how to relieve vaginal itching, it’s essential to understand your root cause and let that guide your treatment. With so many causes of vaginal itching, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment. However, here are some options and ideas to consider.
Antifungals and Antibiotics
Medications, including antifungals and antibiotics, are the typical approach in Western medicine for a fungal or bacterial infection. However, it’s important to note that these medications often provide symptom relief in the short term but may contribute to a cycle of recurrent infections over the long term.
Addressing vaginal microbiome imbalances is an important piece of treatment from a naturopathic perspective, and I’ll talk more about this below.
Many lifestyle changes are supportive for preventing vaginal itching, especially when the root cause is contact dermatitis or related to specific products and habits. Here are some tips:
- Choose fragrance-free and natural period products, personal care products, and laundry detergent.
- Choose natural fabric underwear, such as cotton.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing and regularly give yourself a break from yoga pants.
- Practice good hygiene and wash your vulva with water (no need for soap or special products here). You don’t need to wash inside your vagina or douche; this could make matters worse.
Supplements are an excellent strategy to target the root cause issues that contribute to vaginal itching and can be used along with other interventions. Here are some of my go-to suggestions.
Probiotics for Women and the Vaginal Microbiome
Lactobacilli are the dominant bacteria in the vagina and help keep the vagina at the optimal pH level. Probiotics for women typically contain lactobacillus species and can be used orally or as vaginal probiotics (ask your doctor).
My Women’s Probiotic is specifically designed to include probiotics for vaginal health, with strains like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobaciullus rhamnosus, that help balance the vaginal microbiome and relieve itching, prevent recurrent infections, and support whole-body health.
You can use Women’s Probiotic individually or as part of the Period Problems Kit, that also includes supplements to balance hormones.
The Period Problems Kit also contains Balance Women’s Hormone Support designed to harmonize your menstrual cycle and balance hormones that affect vaginal health. This product contains B vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and hormone supporting herbs.
For further synergy, try Adrenal Support (also part of the Period Problems Kit) to help your body adapt and overcome stress, which includes the stress on your body from infections, microbiome imbalances, hormonal changes, and other health concerns.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
And finally, I want to mention Omega Plus, an omega fatty acids supplement that supports skin health and integrity while decreasing inflammation. It’s an essential tool for inflammatory skin conditions and overall health and wellness.
As you can see, there are many supplement options to support the healing of vaginal itching while also supporting vulvar and vaginal health on a much deeper level.
While vaginal itching is a common symptom related to many underlying causes, it isn’t normal and there’s no need to suffer. Understanding your unique root cause will help you design a comprehensive plan to address symptoms and prevent future problems. Simple lifestyle tools, supplements, and working with your naturopathic doctor for guidance will leave you itch-free in no time!
To learn more about what’s normal for vaginal health, hormones, sex, and other juicy topics be sure to check out my brand-new book, Is This Normal? Chances are, you’ll find out you are more normal than you think!
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