There are several causes of vaginal itching, including infections, stress, and outside irritants. Changes in a woman's hormone levels, during menopause or while breastfeeding, are also common causes of vaginal itching. Although vaginal itching may clear up on its own, a woman may want to see a doctor if she suspects it is caused by an infection.
Yeast infections are probably considered the most common cause of vaginal itching. Nearly three quarters of all women will have a yeast infection at some point, some more frequently than others. When a woman has a yeast infection, she experiences burning and pain in the vaginal and vulvar area as well as a thick discharge. The infection can be treated with external creams that relieve the itching as well as oral pills or vaginal suppositories to clear up the infection.
Since other infections are also causes of vaginal itching, a woman should see her doctor if she has never had a yeast infection and is experiencing itching. Bacterial vaginosis is another common infection that leads to itching, discharge, and an unpleasant odor. It is caused by an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the area. It cannot be treated with the same methods as a yeast infection, so it is important that it be diagnosed properly and the right medication prescribed.
Certain sexually transmitted diseases (STD), including gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and herpes can also cause vaginal itching. Tests at a doctor's office will determine if STDs are the causes of vaginal itching. Gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and chlamydia can be cured with antibiotics. Herpes cannot be cured, but can be controlled with medication.
Changes in a woman's estrogen levels can lead to thinning of the vaginal walls as well as less lubrication. The thinner walls are more prone to irritation and to itching. A woman usually experiences shifts in her hormone levels while breastfeeding or as she goes through menopause. Itching caused by hormone changes may be relieved with lubricants or moisturizers or by soaking in a warm bath.
Sometimes, the laundry detergent or body wash a woman uses can cause vaginal itching, especially if she is prone to sensitive reactions to fragrances or chemicals. A few women may experience itching after using spermicide foams, condoms, or douches. Wearing wet underwear or a wet bathing suit for a long period can also cause itching, as can wearing underwear made of synthetic, non-breathable fibers. The best way to treat itching caused by external irritants is to stop using the suspected product.