What is vaginal itching?

Vaginal itching is an abnormal condition of the vagina due to inflammation or infection of the vagina or genitals (vulva).

A common underlying cause of vaginal itching is a vaginal yeast infection (vaginal thrush) caused by Candida albicans. Vaginal itching can also be caused by a variety of diseases, disorders or conditions that affect the vagina, cervix or genitals including:

  • Changes in hormones

  • Excessive stress

  • Infection including sexually transmitted diseases

  • Poor genital hygiene

  • Sensitivity or allergic reactions to certain substances

Making a diagnosis of the underlying cause of vaginal itching includes taking a medical and sexual history and completing a physical and pelvic exam. During a pelvic examination, your health care practitioner will examine the external genitalia and gently open the vagina with a smooth instrument called a speculum in order to view the vagina and cervix. Your provider will also take a small sample of cells to determine if an infection is present and identify the type of infectious organism.

Vaginal itching is treatable. Good hygiene practices, including daily washing of the genitals with mild soap and water, can help to minimize vaginal itching due to poor hygiene but will not cure vaginal itching caused by sexually transmitted diseases or other conditions. Treatment of vaginal itching caused by a disease or infection varies and is tailored to the underlying cause and the presence of any complications. For example, if vaginal itching is caused by a yeast infection, antifungal medications are prescribed. If vaginal itching is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics are prescribed.

Some types of vaginal itching can be caused by serious conditions, such as sexually transmitted diseases. Seek prompt medical care if you experience persistent vaginal itching. Early diagnosis and treatment of the underlying causes of vaginal itching, such as genital herpes, reduce the risk of potential complications, including meningitis and premature birth.  

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with vaginal itching?

Vaginal itching may occur with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, vaginal itching due to a yeast infection generally occurs with a thick, white vaginal discharge with a texture that resembles cottage cheese.... Read more about vaginal itchingsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes vaginal itching?

A very common underlying cause of vaginal itching is a vaginal yeast infection (vaginal thrush) caused by Candida albicans, a common type of fungus. C. albicans yeast normally live in small amounts in the vagina, mouth, intestines, and on the skin without causing problems. However, under certain conditions they can start to multiply and cause an infection. Unusually strong or persistent vaginal itching can also be caused by a variety of diseases, disorders or conditions that affect the vagina, cervix or genitals.... Read more about vaginal itchingcauses

Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian MD Last Annual Review Date: Apr 4, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.