Many women experience vaginal dryness and itching at some point during their lives. The causes of feminine itching can vary and treatments differ as well.
Certified Nurse Midwife Heather Conn shares some common causes of vaginal dryness and itching, and remedies to help with the discomfort.
Menopause or decreased estrogen
When your body produces less estrogen, it can result in a condition called vaginal atrophy. Vaginal atrophy can cause dryness, itching and other symptoms.
Menopause is the most common reason for decreased estrogen production, but it’s not the only one. Breastfeeding, some medications, cancer treatment, ovary removal and more can also cause lower estrogen levels.
“Your women’s health provider can help diagnose vaginal atrophy and recommend treatments like vaginal moisturizers, estrogen therapy or oral medication,” said Conn.
- A burning feeling when you urinate;
- Thick white discharge; and
- Discomfort during intercourse.
A yeast infection, or candidiasis, is caused by the fungus candida. Yeast infections occur when the pH balance of the vagina is disrupted by things like antibiotics, pregnancy, diabetes, lubricants, hormone changes or damp conditions like wearing a wet swimsuit for too long.
“Wearing tight clothing and sweating or using ‘non-breathable’ panty liners may allow the yeast to thrive, leading to an inflammation,” Conn said. “Your women’s health provider can help treat the infection within about a week.”
Typically, yeast infections are resolved by antifungal medications or oral medication from your women’s health or primary care provider.
If you are experiencing itching or dryness, it can be important to check any product changes in your household. Recently switching to one of these products could be a cause:
- Laundry detergent;
- Vaginal cream; or
- Other topical substance involving chemicals.
The fix can be as simple as removing the potential irritant and giving yourself some time to heal.
Vaginal itching is a common symptom of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, trichomoniasis and gonorrhea.
If you suspect you have an STI, schedule an appointment with your provider for STI testing and treatment.
Bacterial vaginosis, an overgrowth of normal bacteria that live in the vagina, is most common.
“Bacteria is naturally present in the vagina, but too much bad bacteria can upset the balance and lead to bacterial vaginosis,” Conn said.
Beyond itching, symptoms may also include discharge, a fishy odor and burning when you urinate. Because the symptoms can mimic yeast infections or STIs, Conn recommends talking to your women’s health care provider to determine how to treat it.
In the case of bacterial vaginosis, it can be cleared up with oral or topical medications.
Another potential cause of vaginal dryness and itching may be inside your medicine cabinet.
Some over-the-counter and prescription allergy or cold medications, antidepressants, or anti-estrogen medications can cause vaginal irritation. During your appointment with a women’s health provider, talk about any medications you are taking, especially ones that you recently started.
Talk to your women’s health provider
Depending on the causes of your feminine itching or dryness, it could just take a simple treatment to get you feeling like yourself again.
“No reason for you to suffer with this uncomfortable condition,” Conn said. “It’s important for you to reach out to your women’s health provider to improve your quality of life.”
Schedule an appointment with your primary care or women’s health provider to discuss your concerns.