What causes genital itching?
Itching in the genital region can result from irritation, allergy, inflammation, infection or cancer. Many of the infections that can cause genital itching are contagious. Other conditions that cause genital itching are not contagious.
Infectious causes of genital itching
Genital itching may be caused by infections including:
- Bacterial vaginosis (imbalance of bacteria in the vagina leading to overgrowth of certain types of infections)
- Genital herpes (sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 or 2)
- Pubic lice (also called “crabs”; parasitic insects that live in the pubic hair)
- Scabies (contagious skin disease caused by small mites)
- Tinea cruris (“jock itch” or “ringworm of the groin”; fungal skin infection)
- Trichomoniasis (sexually transmitted disease caused by the protozoan parasite Trichomonas vaginalis)
- Yeast infection
Other causes of genital itching
Genital itching can also be caused by other diseases, disorders or conditions including:
- Allergic reactions
- Atopic dermatitis or eczema
- Atrophic vaginitis (thinning and inflammation of vaginal tissues related to a drop in estrogen levels)
- Cancers (penile or vulvar cancers)
- Chemical irritants, such as soaps, feminine hygiene products, perfumes, lubricants, douches, or creams
- Lichen simplex chronicus (chronic skin condition associated with itching and scratching and thickening of the skin)
- Precancerous changes of the skin
- Psoriasis (itchy skin condition associated with skin irritation and redness, often with areas of thickened, red skin with white flaky patches)
Questions for diagnosing the cause of genital itching
To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your genital itching including:
- When did you first notice your genital itching?
- Have you changed soaps or detergents lately or started using any feminine hygiene products?
- Have you had itching like this before?
- Is there anything that seems to make it better or worse?
- Do you have any other symptoms?
- Have you been intimate with anyone who has similar symptoms?
- Are other areas of your body affected?
- What medications are you taking?
What are the potential complications of genital itching?
Because genital itching can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:
- Secondary skin infection (infection that develops on top of the current condition, often due to scratching)
- Spread of cancer
- Spread of infectious disease to close contact or sexual partner
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/sexually_transmitted_diseases.cfm. Accessed May 13, 2011.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/std/Pages/default.aspx. Accessed May 13, 2011.
What is genital itching?
Itching in the genital region can result from irritation, allergy, inflammation, infection or cancer. Irritation can occur as a result of exposure to chemicals in soaps, feminine hygiene products, perfumes, lubricants, douches, and creams. Similar chemicals can also cause allergies in some people, as can latex. In ... Read more about genital itching introduction
What other symptoms might occur with genital itching?
Genital itching may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Some conditions that cause genital itching only affect the genital area, while others may involve other parts of the body.... Read more about genital itching symptoms