Let’s accept it – vaginal itching can be an awkward topic, and controlling the urge to itch socially can be a nightmare! While COVID-19 and the lockdown wasn’t enough to deal with, the humidity and soaring temperatures brings its own concerns.
Pruritus Vulvae is a technical term which means itching in the genital region i.e. the lower part of the body such as around the vulvae (lips of the vagina), perineum, groin, around anus and vagina. 20-25% of my patients face this condition; it may be minor but it can be distressing. Here are some reasons that lead to it:
1) Humidity: Skin infection is quite common in humid conditions, especially in the summer where one is more prone to sweating. Constant moisture due to sweat can give rise to wetness which acts as a good medium for superficial skin infections such as Taenia. Wearing tight clothes should be avoided as the area doesn’t get much exposure and surface area to breathe.
2) Skin Types: Some women have extremely dry skin which can further become more dry in the winter or due to lack of hormones particularly among women experiencing perimenopause. Ensure you moisturise the skin with emollients.
3) Generalised skin problem: It could be associated with skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, lichen planus. It will need to be treated by a dermatologist and a gynaecologist, together.
4) Allergens: The itch reaction could be because of:
- Certain types of condoms, particularly with spermicidal
- Scented sanitary pads which may not suit the skin of women who have sensitive hypo-allergen skin
- Fabric conditioner or detergent which may be harsh on the skin
- Bath salts during a tub bath
- Use of certain soaps, perfumes, lubricants and creams
- Those not used to bikini waxing
- Some hair removal creams
- One-way razors and not disposable ones
- Using facilities in salons where hygiene is not maintained
5) Personal Hygiene: It need not necessarily arise due to under cleaning yourself but this reaction can also be due to over doing it, too! Sometimes it can be a result of repeated washing down below which can result in dryness of the skin. Additionally, washing and not drying the wet area can result in the skin becoming extremely moist, increasing the risk of other infections. Regular use of hygiene vaginal washes can also give rise to local skin dryness and itching.
6) Infection: Itching may be a vaginal infection or simply an infection of the skin of the vulva and groin. There are common infections here like thrush or vaginal candidiasis. In this case, there will be curdy white, cheesy, or greenish yellowish discharge with bad odour. There is a possibility that it can be passed on to the male partner and they can experience itching or rash on the male organ. There is a need to treat both, the woman as well as her partner.
7) Hormonal: It may also be related to the level of hormones. There are certain conditions like Lichen Sclerosis which can exacerbate due to lack of oestrogen hormone in menopausal women, which needs long term treatment to keep it under control.
Vaginal itching and dryness is curable through medication and simple lifestyle changes like wearing loose clothing, not wearing nylon underwear, washing and drying up later on and so on. Usually most women self-medicate, use over-the-counter medicines or use hygiene washes. It will be better to seek medical advice if simple measures mentioned above like personal hygiene habits fail to correct the problem.