Vaginal itching, or genital itching, is a common issue many women experience.
Signs and Symptoms of Vaginal Itching
Vaginal itching is a symptom that may signify something is occurring with your vagina. Signs and symptoms of itching can involve the vagina or the genital area called the vulva.
How Is Vaginal Itching Diagnosed?
During a doctor's visit, the doctor may perform an examination of the genital area, as well as ask questions about symptoms. On this basis, the physician is typically able to determine what is causing the vaginal itching.
Prognosis and Duration of Vaginal Itching
Once treatment is started or irritants are removed, vaginal itching is typically resolved.
Treatment and Medication Options for Vaginal Itching
Treatment for vaginal itching depends on the cause and may include the following. (1,3)
- Corticosteroid cream, such as hydrocortisone or clobetasol for lichen sclerosus
- Metronidazole (Flagyl), metronidazole (MetroGel) gel, or clindamycin (Cleocin) cream for bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis
- Antibiotics for sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis
- Antifungal cream or suppository, such as miconazole (Monistat 1), clotrimazole, butoconazole or tioconazole (Vagistat-1), or antifungal medication, such as fluconazole (Diflucan) for yeast infections
- Estrogen for itching caused by hormonal changes
- Antihistamine to relieve irritation or allergic reaction
Alternative and Complementary Therapies
- Placing a cold compress, such as a washcloth, on the labial area can help with discomfort
- Taking a sitz bath with water covering the genital and rectal areas
Complications of Vaginal Itching
Some complications can develop when vaginal itching is present, including the following: (1,3)
- If itching is caused by trichomoniasis or bacterial vaginosis, these conditions can increase the risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections because they cause inflammation.
- Having symptomatic bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis while pregnant has been linked to premature deliveries and low birth weight.
- When lichen sclerosus is left untreated, it can cause scarring and increase the risk of cancer of the vulva.
- If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
- If left untreated, chlamydia can cause ectopic pregnancy in women.
Research and Statistics: Who Experiences Vaginal Itching?
Vaginal itching can occur in children and women of all ages. (4)
Vaginal itching in children is often caused by:
- Vaginitis, often due to wiping incorrectly and not washing hands properly after bowel movements
- Inflammation from chemicals in bubble baths or soaps
- Sexual abuse
Women of Reproductive Age
Women of reproductive age typically experience vaginal itching due to the following infections:
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Candidal vaginitis
- Trichomonal vaginitis
- Chlamydial infection
- Genital herpes
Irritation or allergic reactions from clothing, detergents, soaps, creams, condoms, and more can also cause itching.
Women past menopause may experience vaginal itching due to:
- Atrophic vaginitis
- Vaginal cancer, cervical cancer, and endometrial cancer
- Chemical vulvitis in women who are incontinent or bedbound
- Irritation or allergic reactions from clothing, detergents, soaps, creams, condoms, and more
Resources We Love
Reliable vaginal health resources can be helpful for finding information and support. Many organizations provide educational materials and can help you find doctors who specialize in vaginal conditions. Online communities also offer support as well as practical advice and tips. Here are a few we recommend.
Office on Women's Health
Within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Office on Women's Health (OWH) addresses women's health issues by informing and advancing policies, educating healthcare professionals and consumers, and supporting innovative programs.
National Women’s Health Network
NWHN is an organization of consumer activists supported by a national membership. The network aims to shape policy and support consumer health decisions; monitor the actions of federal regulatory and funding agencies, the healthcare industry, and the health professions; identify and expose healthcare abuses; and mobilize grassroots action for women’s health.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Barad DH. Genital Itching. Merck Manual. April 2020.
- Vulva and Vaginal Irritation. Jean Hailes for Women's Health. September 13, 2020.
- Vaginitis. Mayo Clinic. February 11, 2020.
- Vaginal Itching and Discharge. Merck Manual. March 2020.
- Vaginal Itching and Discharge — Adult and Adolescent. MedlinePlus. August 25, 2020.
- Vaginitis. Mayo Clinic. November 13, 2019.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Vaginal itching and discharge — Adult and adolescent; MedlinePlus.
- Vaginitis; Mayo Clinic.