Some Reasons for Vaginal Itching include:
Clothes made from synthetic (man-made) fibres such as polyester, rayon and nylon do not allow your skin to ‘breathe’. Breathe in this context means air moving around the vaginal areas. These synthetic materials – especially when made into tight-fitting panties, can cause moisture to build up on the surface of the skin they cover. This moist skin rubbing against itself or against clothing can cause itching and redness. Wearing panties made from natural fibres such as cotton can help to keep your vaginal areas drier.
Chafing Caused During Sex
Many women become itchy in and around the vagina after sex, mostly due to chafing caused during sex. Chafing often happens during intercourse when pubic hair rubs against sensitive genital skin. Hair removal can help to prevent this from occurring.
Fungal Infections of the Vagina
Fungal infections, also known as Yeast infection, Candida (Candidiasis) or Thrush are a common cause of intense vaginal itchiness, redness and soreness. Signs of Candida include a white or yellowish “cottage cheese”-like discharge and a “cheese-like” smell. There are many products on the market – both natural and over-the counter (OTC) pharmaceutical products that can help to reduce or eliminate this overgrowth of the naturally occurring fungal microbe, Candida Albicans. If you are in doubt about whether you have a fungal infection of the vagina or not, please see your doctor to be diagnosed.
Bacterial and Other Infections of the Vagina
Bacterial infections such as bacterial vaginosis, and protozoan infections caused by a little parasite called Trichonomas vaginalis can cause itching as well as unpleasant smelling discharge (fishy or like decaying meat), and soreness. If you suspect you may have a bacterial or protozoan infection or do not know what the problem could be, please consult your doctor – antibiotic treatment may be necessary.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
STIs (sexually transmitted infections) can cause itching. Some examples of STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhea and genital herpes. If you suspect you may have an STI, please see a doctor so that it can be properly diagnosed and treated.
How to Relieve Vaginal Itching
There are a number of different types of products on the market for the relief of vaginal itching including:
Local Anaesthetic-Type Creams
Local anaesthetic creams dull the nerve endings around the vagina. These products have a chemical anaesthetic such as benzocaine as their active ingredient. They are recommended for external vaginal use. When the local anaesthetic wears off, the itching often returns because the creams do not contain any ingredients to help resolve the cause of the vaginal itching.
Anti-Fungal Pills, Creams and Pessaries
Anti-fungal products work well if you know you are suffering from a fungal infection. Oral pills generally contain the anti-fungal chemical, Fluconazole. Fluconazole taken orally can affect the whole body, however and not just the vagina. Indiscriminate ‘whole body’ anti-fungal action can cause other microbes such as bacteria to proliferate elsewhere in the body since bacteria are usually kept in a state of natural balance by healthy competition from other microbes.
Antifungal creams and pessaries contain other “-azole” drugs such as Clotrimazole, Miconazole, Tiocinazole and Butoconazole. These pharmaceutical antifungal treatments can be effective for vaginal itching if the itching is caused by Candida microbes. These drugs are ineffective for vaginal itching that is not the result of fungal infections. There can also be problems with antifungal drug treatments when Candida fungal microbes develop resistance to them. Antifungal drugs are becoming ineffective for many women who suffer frequently from Candida infections.
Natural Options to Relieve Vaginal Itching
Douching with tea tree oil
The essential oil of tea tree has been used widely in herbal medicine for the treatment of vaginal itching. Tea tree oil is naturally anti-fungal and anti-bacterial which helps to address the causes of vaginal itching as well as relieving the itch itself. If you plan to use tea tree oil as a douche, you must take care to dilute the oil with water to avoid burning the delicate skin around and inside the vagina. Always test a tiny area of skin on the outside of the vagina first before squirting the mixture inside the vaginal opening.
Always use the unsweetened, natural plain type of yoghurt. Yoghurt contains beneficial “lactobacillus” bacteria – “good bacteria” which may be able to effectively compete with any “bad” microbes that might be causing your discomfort. Yoghurt can be applied directly using clean fingers to the vagina. Eating yoghurt, while beneficial is not going to be directly effective!
Douching with diluted, unfiltered apple cider vinegar can help to restore the correct acidity to your vagina. Be careful to notice whether the itching increases or decreases, however. A vagina that is too acidic is an environment where Candida fungus thrives.
Soaking in a sitz bath which contains Epsom salts may help by lowering the acidity of the vagina. Be careful again to notice whether the itching increases or decreases – bacteria loves vaginas that are not acidic enough!