The vagina is a confusing thing and nothing sends us into more of a panic than an itchy vagina – it’s annoying, uncomfortable and really frustrating (welcome to being a woman!) But before you freak out, just know that it’s really common and happens to everyone.
To understand what causes this itching, first we need to understand how the vagina works. Certain good bacteria and fungi inhabit the vagina and a healthy pH balance, which is moderately acidic, prevents these bacteria and fungi from going rogue. If this pH balance is disrupted and thrown off, due to an allergy or infection, it can cause uncontrolled growth of bacteria and yeast, leading to itchiness.
Here are a few reasons your vagina area may be itching:
Bacterial vaginosis is a highly common vaginal inflammation caused by an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria that upsets the vagina’s natural pH balance. Along with itching, the symptoms include a white coloured discharge, foul smelling odour and a burning sensation during peeing. Antibiotics prescribed by a gynaecologist can easily treat this infection.
A yeast infection is a fungal infection that can affect up to 75% women at some point in their lifetime. It’s caused by an imbalance in the bacteria that causes the yeast fungus to grow. This imbalance can be due to certain antibiotics, a weak immune system or pregnancy. Symptoms can also include a lumpy, curd-like discharge along with itching. Yeast infections can be easily treated by anti-fungal medicines.
Many fancy products, such as douches, claim to cleanse the vaginal area but are full of chemicals and strong fragrances that disrupt the vagina’s natural pH balance. Using these products kills all the good bacteria and can trigger contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction, leading to itchiness and discomfort.
Certain dermatological disorders, such as eczema and psoriasis can cause vaginal itching. Eczema causes reddish, scaly rashes in people who are allergic or asthmatic and psoriasis causes scaly rashes along with joint disease.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Some STI’s, such as genital herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis and genital warts, cause vaginal itching and discharge. Treatment prescribed by the gynaecologist can relieve the discomfort.
So what’s the cure? Mild itchiness will almost always go away on its own but if it persists and is disrupting your daily routine, consult with a gynaecologist for a proper diagnosis and medication.
The first step, however, should always be prevention! Here are a few ways you can prevent vaginal itching to begin with:
- Hygiene! Maintain good vaginal hygiene by keeping the area clean and dry. Get rid of damp clothes immediately after swimming or exercise
- Wear cotton underwear and change them daily
- Avoid using douches, scented soaps, vaginal cleansers and sprays – water is all you need!
- Change your laundry detergent or fabric softener if they’re causing an allergy
- Always wipe front to back to avoid contamination from fecal germs
- Change sanitary pads often and take extra care of your hygiene when menstruating
- Include yoghurt as part your daily diet – it has probiotics and good bacteria which can help restore any bacterial imbalance
- If you’re diabetic, maintain normal blood sugar levels as they can also alter the pH balance of the vagina