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.

Infectious causes of vaginal itching

Vaginal itching can be caused by different types of infections including:

  • Genital herpes (sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes virus)

  • Genital warts (sexually transmitted disease caused by the human papillomavirus)

  • Overgrowth and imbalance of certain microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast, that normally live in the vagina in a certain balance

  • Pubic lice (crabs), which do not infest the vagina but infect and cause itching in the genital area

  • Trichomoniasis (sexually transmitted disease caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis)

  • Vaginal pinworm infection that has spread from the rectum

  • Vaginal yeast infection (vaginal thrush) caused by C. albicans

Noninfectious causes of vaginal itching

Vaginal itching can also be caused by general irritation due to the following:

  • Allergic reaction or irritation of the genitals and vagina by chemicals, such as perfumed soaps, bubble baths, feminine sprays, contraceptive foams, or jellies

  • Douching

  • High-absorbency tampon for a small amount of menstrual flow

  • Menopause

  • Poor genital hygiene, which can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast

  • Tampon left in the vagina for more than several hours

  • Wearing tight-fitting underwear or pants, which can result in a heat rash or irritation of delicate genital tissues

What are the potential complications of vaginal itching?

In some cases, vaginal itching can be due to an underlying condition that can result in serious or life-threatening complications. You can minimize the risk of serious complications of vaginal itching by seeking early medical care and following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of vaginal itching and some underlying causes include:

  • Birth defects, premature delivery, miscarriage, and still birth due to sexually transmitted diseases during pregnancy

  • Embarrassment

  • Higher risk of catching HIV/AIDS

  • Meningitis

  • Spread of certain infections to unborn children during pregnancy and childbirth or through breast-feeding

  • Spread of infection to the eyes or other organs

  • Spread of sexually transmitted diseases to sexual partners

INTRODUCTION

What is vaginal itching?

Vaginal itching is an abnormal condition of the vagina due to inflammation or infection of the vagina or genitals (vulva).... Read more about vaginal itchingintroduction

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

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.