7 Causes of Vaginal Itching

Vaginal itching is a common complaint—what can cause it?

You may experience vaginal itchiness from time to time, which can be worrisome even when it's mild. The reasons for the symptom can range from your choice of underwear to a sexually transmitted infection (STI). That's why it's essential to figure out what's going on. Here are seven possible causes of vaginal itching, plus the recommended treatments.

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Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a vaginal infection caused by an overgrowth of bacteria that changes the balance of bacteria in the vagina. BV can cause some itching near the vulva but the hallmark symptom is a foul-smelling vaginal discharge. Other symptoms of bacterial vaginosis may include:

  • Pain during sex
  • Pain, itching, or burning in the vagina
  • Pain when urinating

When speaking with a healthcare provider, be sure to note all your symptoms, including details about discharge, which can go a long way in identifying your issue.

BV is treated with antibiotics, such as clindamycin or metronidazole. Additionally, 30% of BV cases resolve without treatment. But without treatment, there are increased health risks such as getting other STIs or premature delivery during pregnancy (if you are pregnant while you have BV).


You may think you could tell if you have genital herpes, but not everyone gets prominent lesions that are easy to see. Many people have mild to non-existent symptoms, including itching around their genitals or anus. This itching can last up to 24 hours. Other symptoms of herpes include:

  • Blisters on the genitals, rectum, or mouth (may be painful)
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle pains
  • Pain when urinating
  • Swollen lymph nodes (especially in your groin)

A healthcare provider can evaluate all your symptoms and their severity. Topical creams and other medications can help ease discomfort and reduce outbreak time. Other treatments can include self-care tips like wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear or applying a cold compress to the sores.

Hormonal Changes

If you're post-menopausal—meaning your period has naturally stopped for more than a year—the source of the itch could be your vagina changing along with your changing hormones.

Vaginal atrophy, or thinning of the vaginal wall, is caused by a decrease in the hormone estrogen which can occur after menopause. Other symptoms of vaginal atrophy can include:

  • Vaginal irritation and dryness
  • Increased urinary frequency
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Incontinence
  • Pain when urinating

Vaginal atrophy can be treated with both hormonal and non-hormonal options. This may include topical moisturizers and lubricants, hormonal replacement therapy (HRT), or local estrogen therapy (creams, tablets, or a vaginal ring).


Vaginal itching can be caused by irritation from specific fabrics or products such as:

  • Detergents
  • Fabric softeners
  • Sprays
  • Ointments
  • Creams
  • Douches
  • Contraceptive foams, jellies, or creams

Treating vaginal irritation involves some home care. Here are some things you can do to reduce irritation near your vagina:

  • Avoid douching
  • Avoid using sprays, fragrances, or powder in the genital area
  • Wear cotton underwear
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes
  • Rinse your genitals with only water (no soap)
  • Soak in a warm (not hot) bath

Shaving Aftermath

When you shave your pubic hair, it may feel smooth at the moment, but the skin may get itchy when the hair grows back. In one study, over 50% of the people in the survey reported removing all pubic hair and roughly 20% of those people reported severe itching after removing pubic hair.

The study also observed that the majority of people who experienced complications were using a razor to shave.

To reduce itchiness after shaving, be sure to a fragrance-free moisturizer to reduce dryness and irritation. Although this can be costly, you can also consider laser hair removal so you don't have to shave as often.


Trichomoniasis (trich) is a common and treatable STI caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. It's estimated that there were more than two million cases in the United States in 2018, and in 30% of those cases, trich didn't cause any symptoms. Symptoms can, however, include:

  • Itching near the genitals
  • Burning during or after urinating
  • Discharge from the penis
  • Clear, white, yellow, or green vaginal discharge that has a fishy odor

If you are having symptoms of trich, see a healthcare provider. They can treat you with an antibiotic. Keep in mind that reinfection occurs in roughly one in five people within three months of receiving treatment. Make sure your sexual partners get tested and treated as well so you can avoid reinfection.

Yeast Infection

The most widely known cause of vaginal itching is yeast infections. Yeast infections are very common—75% of females will get one at some point. The hallmark symptom is extreme itchiness and an odorless thick, white discharge. Other symptoms may include:

  • Burning, redness, and swelling of the vagina and vulva
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain when urinating

A healthcare provider can diagnose and treat your yeast infection. They will recommend an antifungal medication that can be purchased over the counter in the form of a cream, tablet, ointment, or suppository.

When To See a Healthcare Provider

If you experience severe vaginal itching, talk to a healthcare provider to figure out what's happening. Here are some additional reasons to see a healthcare provider right away:

  • You experience additional symptoms such as vaginal discharge, fever, redness and swelling around your genitals, and/or pain in your pelvis or belly area.
  • You think you may have been exposed to an STI.
  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • Your symptoms last longer than a week.
  • You've changed medications recently and think they may be related to the itching.

A Quick Review

Make sure to listen to your body and talk to a healthcare provider if you're worried about your symptoms. While vaginal itching can be due to many causes, including natural and treatable changes, it's worth asking a healthcare provider before trying to treat the issue on your own.

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  6. National Institute on Aging. What is menopause?

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  14. Office on Women's Health. Vaginal yeast infections.

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