Understanding Vulvar Itching: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments for a Healthier You

Understanding Vulvar Itching: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments for a Healthier You

The vulva has an impressive ability to maintain a healthy balance of flora, ensuring it functions effectively and remains healthy. When this balance is intact, everything works seamlessly without any intervention. However, when this balance is disrupted, it can lead to issues such as vulval itching and other uncomfortable symptoms.

Generally, vulval itching is annoying but not usually a cause for serious concern. However, if the itching is severe, persistent, or accompanied by other symptoms, it's wise to consult a healthcare professional. Through examination or testing, the cause can be identified, giving you clarity and empowerment to address the issue.

Understanding Vulvar Itching: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments for a Healthier You

Causes of Vulvar Itching

Vulvar itching can stem from various factors including irritants, infections, menopause, and stress. In some cases, it might indicate more serious conditions like vulvar pre-cancer (VIN) or vulvar cancer, so it should not be ignored. Common causes include:

  • Bacterial Vaginosis
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
  • Menopause
  • Irritants
  • Lichens
  • Vaginal Candidiasis (Yeast Infection)
  • VIN – Pre-cancer Condition

This overview will discuss these causes, their symptoms, and available treatments.

Lichens

Lichen sclerosus affects the genital area and other parts of the body, presenting as white spots. It's more common in women over fifty. Characteristics include:

  • Itchy patches
  • White, smooth or crinkled skin
  • Bleeding or pain when scratched

While there's no cure, topical steroids or immune system medications can manage the condition.

Vaginal Candidiasis (Yeast Infection)

A prevalent cause of vulval itching is vaginal candidiasis. Over 70% of women will experience this at some point. Symptoms include:

  • Sore, itchy, and red vulva
  • Burning sensation during urination or sex
  • Swollen vulva
  • Thick, white discharge resembling cottage cheese
  • Watery discharge

Treatment typically involves antifungal cream prescribed for up to three days.

Vulvar Pre-cancer

A significant amount of vulvar itching can be related to pre-cancer and cancer. Lesions are often identified by a doctor specializing in vulvar diseases.

Bacterial Vaginosis

This condition arises from an imbalance in vaginal bacteria, leading to irritation and discharge. Symptoms include:

  • Grey-white, thin, watery discharge
  • Fishy odor
  • Itching or burning sensation

Though not classified as an STI, being sexually active can increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis. Other risk factors include using scented products and having an intrauterine device (IUD).

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

STIs are another cause of vulval itching. It's important to seek urgent medical attention to prevent complications and transmission. STIs include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Genital warts
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Ureaplasma, Mycoplasma

Menopause

Menopause typically begins in women over fifty but can start earlier. Symptoms include:

  • Irregular periods
  • Hot flushes and night sweats
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Mood swings
  • Dry, itchy vagina
  • Reduced libido
  • Urinary issues

Symptoms usually last around four years but can persist for up to twelve years.

Irritants

The vulva is sensitive to chemicals in washing powders, deodorants, shower gels, latex condoms, and lubricants, which can cause contact dermatitis and itching. Tight clothing or exercise-induced friction can also cause discomfort. Removing the irritant usually resolves the itching, though topical creams might be necessary.

Do Not Ignore Vulvar Itching

Vulvar itching is uncomfortable and can cause anxiety, especially if the cause is unknown. The best course of action is to consult a healthcare professional for a clear diagnosis and treatment plan. This will not only address the symptoms but also provide peace of mind.

 

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