Itchy Vagina and The Causes of Vaginal Discharge
An itchy vagina is probably more common than you might think, and the itch may be accompanied by a vaginal discharge that gives a clue to the cause of the itch.
No one likes to visit their doctor or nurse with intimate problems such as these, and people often leave well alone and hope that things will go away, only asking for help when the itch or discharge becomes unbearable, but your health care team has seen it all before and isn’t fazed by an itchy muff or two.
There are several causes for an itchy discharging vagina, ranging from infection to allergy, so it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis, and therefore the right treatment. Different vaginal discharges (with or without itch) point towards different problems:
This causes a thin, white or greyish smooth discharge that coats the vaginal walls, and is the most common infectious cause of vaginal discharge. The discharge is usually copious (lots of it) and smells fishy. It doesn’t usually cause soreness or an itchy vagina. The smell often appears worse during sex or during a woman’s period. The cause is an increase in anaerobic bacteria (those that don’t need oxygen to survive) that overwhelm the healthy vaginal bacteria. Your doctor or nurse should confirm this by taking a swab, and then may give antibiotics.
This is a less common cause of an itchy vagina, with discharge; however, around half of the women who have the infection don’t know they have it. In this case, the discharge is yellow-green and frothy and the vagina and vulva may be sore and itchy. The cervix takes on a bright red ‘strawberry’ appearance, although you are unlikely to know this unless you are very clever with mirrors, particularly double jointed, or have a very obliging partner. Your doctor or nurse should take a swab from high in the vagina and treat both you and your partner, as the disease is spread sexually
Itchy vagina and the Causes of Vaginal Discharge
This infection is much more common in young people, and many women do not know that they have it, however, symptoms could include a pus-filled discharge, pain on peeing, spotting after sex or between periods. When taking a pap smear, the nurse may notice some bleeding. Chlamydia is confirmed by taking a swab from the opening of the cervix, or by offering the person a kit to swab the vagina herself. All sexual partners will need to be traced and treated with antibiotics if possible, as chlamydia can go on to cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in women.
Candida causes a thick, white, curdy discharge, often with itchy, sore vagina. The vagina may become red, split or swollen, and there may be pain on peeing or during sex. Many women treat themselves with over the counter medication, but some seek treatment from their doctor. Around 75% of women report having an itchy vagina due to thrush at some point and around 50% will have more than one episode. If episodes are severe or frequent, it may be worth treating both partners
Other causes of itchy vagina include:
Allergy to soaps, washing powders, condoms, lubes etc
Pinworm infestation from the rectum
Foreign body, the most common of which is forgotten/lost tampon
Strep or staph (skin bacteria) infection
It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment if you have an itchy vagina with discharge, but there are some things you can do for yourself:
Use gentle soap, or no soap when washing
Wear natural fiber panties, such as cotton
Protect yourself when having sex by using a condom or dental dam
Let the air circulate, at least at night in bed.
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