Yes, it’s a little embarrassing. But trust us, you’re not the only one. If living in the heat and humidity of Singapore is new to you, you may find that vaginal itching is more persistent due to the sweat gauge dialling itself up a few notches. If, despite staying in a cool environment, having regular showers, and wearing 100% cotton underwear doesn’t solve the problem, then it’s time to look into it. A visit to your doctor should shed light on the correct diagnosis so you can get treated and banish the itch! Brace yourself: here are the six most common causes of vaginal itch…
Vulvovaginal thrush is one of the most common causes of vaginal itching, and it’s more common in warmer climates. It presents with a discharge often described as ‘cottage cheese-like’ as well as redness that is easily irritated and very itchy. Often the diagnosis can be made clinically but as yeast (Candida) is the culprit, a swab will tell you for sure. It can occur after a course of antibiotics due to the change in vaginal bacterial flora, or may be triggered by other changes such pregnancy or menopause. Sexual intercourse can be a trigger, as can diabetes or other conditions that affect the immune system. Thrush is easily fixed with anti-fungal treatment, and regular probiotics may help.
A diagnosis that is often overlooked is pinworms. This is a common infection, particularly in children, and is highly contagious. The most common symptom is anal itching at nighttime when the pinworms are active, or vaginal itching. Once diagnosed, all household members should be treated even if they have no symptoms.
3. Other infections
Other infections such as bacterial vaginosis can present with a vaginal itch. Bacterial vaginosis is not an STD but it causes a change in vaginal pH and bacterial flora, resulting in an odour, change in discharge and possible itch. If you do have any concerns about an STD then a full screening will identify the cause so you can receive the treatment you need.
Along with all its other wonderful symptoms, menopause can cause increased vaginal dryness resulting in a condition known as atrophic vaginitis. Basically, the gradual exit of the oestrogen hormone means there’s less lubrication and a thinning of the vaginal skin, which can result in vaginal itching. The good news is it’s easily treatable with appropriate hormonal or non-hormonal treatments.
5. Skin sensitization
Vaginal skin is prone to skin irritation or allergies. The vagina is self-cleansing so you only need to use water or a pH-balanced wash that is specifically designed as a vaginal wash – overuse of soaps is likely to cause irritation. Other items such as sanitary wear, wet wipes, perfumed detergents, and irritant vaginal lubricants should also be avoided.
6. Skin conditions
Conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, lichen sclerosus and others can affect the vulval skin and cause a vaginal itch.
Of course, these are just the most common conditions that can cause vaginal itching. There are other less common ones, so it’s best to see your doctor for the correct diagnosis!
Dr Sundus Hussein-Morgan, from Complete Healthcare International, is an experienced Austrian GP, trained in England. Her areas of interest are: women and children’s health, Dermatology, Preventative medicine and Chronic Disease management. Dr Sundus speaks German and Arabic.
Stay tuned for our next installment of ‘Ask the Doctor’ with Complete Healthcare International, the series where we deal with the common niggles and ailments you’ve been too afraid – or just too damn busy – to ask about.
This post is sponsored by Complete Healthcare International.