Itchy genitals in women

Itching in the pubic or groin area can affect women of any age, and around one woman in 10 will consult a doctor about the problem at some point.

Summary

Itching of the vulva – the opening to the vagina, clitoris, outer and inner lips and the skin in the area between the vagina and the anus – is known medically as pruritus vulvae. Usually it’s not serious but if it’s frequent and persistent, it’s important to get it checked out.

Causes of itchy genitals in women

These are extremely wide-ranging. It can sometimes simply be due to irritation from chemicals found in:

  • Perfumed soaps
  • Bubble baths
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Creams
  • Detergents
  • Condoms

You may also experience hormonal changes around pregnancy, breastfeeding and the menopause, which can affect the delicate vulval skin.

Infections or infestation

  • Sexually transmitted infections (STI) such as pubic lice, genital herpes and genital warts
  • Scabies – a rash caused by tiny mites that lay eggs under your skin; although scabies isn’t specifically an STI, it can be transmitted through sexual contact, affecting your genital area
  • Thrush (candida), a common fungal infection that can also cause soreness, irritation and a white discharge

Underlying conditions

  • Lichen sclerosus, a long-term inflammatory skin disease
  • Poorly controlled diabetes, leading to high blood sugar levels, which make yeast infections such as thrush more likely
  • Itchy skin conditions such as eczema psoriasis or lichen planus, which can affect your genitals and groin as well as other areas of your body

Talk to your doctor if you're concerned about symptoms.

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

Book an appointment

Getting a diagnosis for itchy genitals in women

See a doctor if the itching is frequent and persistent or accompanied by other unexplained symptoms such as a rash or discharge. This is very important because a lot of the symptoms of minor conditions can be very similar to those of serious conditions such as vulval cancer. The earlier any condition is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat.

Your doctor may:

  • Ask you questions about your symptoms and general health
  • Examine your genitals
  • Take swabs – this involves inserting a small ball of cotton wool on the end of a thin stick into your vagina to obtain samples that will be tested for infections

They may also consider other tests including:

  • Blood tests, for instance to check for conditions such as diabetes
  • Skin-patch testing to detect sensitivities to certain chemicals
  • Taking a tiny sample of vulval skin, using a local anaesthetic

Test samples will be sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Treatments for itchy genitals in women

Treatments for an itchy vulva will vary, according to the cause. They may include lifestyle changes such as avoiding anything that may be causing an allergic reaction and self-care such as:

  • Gentle, regular washing and drying
  • Avoiding use of anything perfumed
  • Not scratching the area
  • Avoiding tight-fitting clothes
  • Wearing loose underwear made from 100% cotton

If you need treatment, this will depend on the underlying cause. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Antifungal cream or pessaries, antibiotics or antiviral treatments for infections
  • Creams, liquid, freezing or occasionally surgery for genital warts
  • Steroid cream or other treatments for certain skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis or lichen planus
  • Moisturisers or hormone replacement cream if the cause is menopause-related

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