Genital itching can be embarrassing, uncomfortable, and, sometimes, downright painful. Often, a harmless inflammation due to irritants, like laundry detergents or perfumed soaps, is the cause. Other times, a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or fungal infection creates the condition. While such irritation can be distressing for the person who suffers from it, it is usually easy to treat with over-the-counter creams or prescription medications. Frequently, basic lifestyle changes can preclude the symptom.
A yeast infection, also known as candidiasis, is one of the most common causes of genital itching among women. Certain medications can result in this condition, such as antibiotics and oral contraceptives. Consuming yogurt products that contain live cultures is often suggested as a preventative measure when medications are prescribed that are known to cause the infection. Women who frequently wear nylon undergarments or pantyhose often suffer from recurring yeast infections, because the fabrics restrict airflow around the vaginal region. Sometimes, however, the occurrence can be related to an underlying health issue, such as diabetes.
In addition to other indicators, a common symptom of an STD includes genital itching. Scabies, which are parasitic mites that burrow under the skin and cause severe irritation, and crabs, a bug similar to head lice, are both contagious conditions often contracted from an infected person during sexual contact. The itchiness that results from these STDs causes significant discomfort to the person. Both conditions, however, are usually easily treatable with topical medications that contain a mite-killing agent, such as permethrin. A prescription drug, lindane, is also effective and may be dispensed by a doctor, such as in a lotion called Kwell®.
Sometimes, female hormones — especially estrogen — are the cause of genital itching. The imbalance that occurs during the phases of menopause can create this symptom. As estrogen declines, changes to the vaginal wall, such as a reduction in natural moisture and thinning membranes, cause the irritation. Genital itching is also a frequent complaint among pregnant women because of fluctuating hormones.
On occasion, genital itching is caused by outside influences, which is the easiest to resolve. Various chemicals can cause marked irritation, such as those found in certain laundry soaps. Many times, this can be remedied simply by changing the brand of cleanser that is used.
In some cases, perfumed soaps and douches cause this adverse effect. Contraceptive products, like latex condoms or other forms of birth control, are also sometimes to blame. To confirm the source of genital itching, and determine appropriate treatment, a visit to the doctor is usually indicated, so that an examination and diagnostic testing can be performed.