What is Vaginal Itching and Burning?
Vaginal itching and burning is one of the most common complaints of women especially during menstruation. Vaginal itching is generally a mild complaint; however, some may be caused by notorious infections that may aggravate once treatments are not instituted. The vagina is a sensitive tissue because of being a mucous membrane.
It is naturally acidic to fight infections such as yeasts. Changes in the normal pH of the vaginal can lead to problems such as itching because of possible irritation from microorganisms. Vaginal itching is usually associated with burning on the vaginal mucosa. This is because irritation may cause mild inflammation in the areas causing burning sensations in the area.
Associated Symptoms of Vaginal Itching and Burning
Vaginal burning and itching may also be associated with other symptoms that may be mild to severe. These include:
- Painful intercourse - Burning sensation in the vagina usually becomes intensified as the penis comes in contact with the vaginal wall.
- Difficulty urination – The presence of vaginal infections that lead to itching may also spread to the adjacent urethra. As a result, there is also itching and burning sensation as one tries to urinate.
- Presence of vaginal secretions – Vaginal secretions may also be observed, which may be non-purulent or purulent depending on the cause. Vaginal secretions may also be non-foul smelling or fishy in odor. Presence of fishy-odor in the secretions should be referred immediately because this may be caused by ongoing vaginal infections.
Vaginal itching during Pregnancy
Vaginal itching can also occur during pregnancy because of normal changes in the pH of the vagina. The vagina normally becomes slightly less acidic because of scant discharges. This produces minimal irritation. Pregnant women should ensure good perineal hygiene because the change in the pH can invite yeast infections.
Vaginal Itching without Discharge
Some vaginal itching may also be present without discharge. Absence of discharge is usually related to mechanical and chemical irritation rather than pathologic in nature. Vaginal itching without discharge can be due to irritation with clothing materials or feminine washes. Certain women develop allergy to certain fabrics used in underwear, tampons, napkins and even hygienic washes. It is important for these women to choose hypoallergenic soaps or washes to prevent vaginal itching. Cotton underwear is also beneficial to prevent allergies from silk or satin.
Vaginal Itching after periods
Women also usually experience vaginal itching after menses. This is because blood may not have fully escaped the vagina and some may still have attached to the vaginal wall. As a result, the blood becomes oxidized and may cause mild irritation in the vagina.
Causes of Vaginal Itching and Burning
Vaginal itching and burning may be caused by several factors. These include:
Yeast infections are one of the most common causes of vaginal itching. It is caused by Candida albicans, an opportunistic microorganism. Yeast infections usually occur with the use of antibiotics, pregnancy, or weakening of the immune system. Lichen planus is also a fungal infection that causes white patches on the skin that may affect the vagina. The presence of yeast infections are largely dependent on the pH of the vagina and the immune system of the woman because fungal infections do not normally occur when there is normal pH and strong immunity because they do not support the growth of the fungi.
Sexually transmitted diseases
Sexually transmitted diseases can also cause vaginal itching. Most common STDs include Chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, genital warts and Trichomoniasis. These infections usually result in purulent vaginal discharges. Bacterial vaginosis may also occur as a result of increase in other microorganisms such as Escherichia coli in the vagina.
Substances such as detergents, condoms, soaps, creams, and contraceptive foams can also cause vaginal irritation and itching without discharges.
Menopause causes the estrogen levels to decrease resulting in dryness and thinning of the vaginal wall. As a result, there will be irritation and itching from the dry mucosa.
The diagnosis for vaginal itching and burning may include:
- Pelvic examination – Pelvic examination is usually done to assess the reproductive tract. It involves inspection and palpation of the vagina and other pelvic organs to determine any underlying conditions that may cause the itching.
- Vaginal Smears – Vaginal smears are also taken to determine possible presence of sexually transmitted diseases. It involves the collection of vaginal and cervical mucus and studying it under a microscope to detect the specific microorganism that causes the infection.
Treatment of Vaginal Itching and Burning
Treatments for vaginal itching depend on the causative factor. Treatments include:
- Antibiotic therapy – Cases of bacterial infection such as STDs require antibiotic treatment usually with doxycycline to kill the causative microorganisms. The therapy usually involves one week treatment. After the course of the antibiotics, a repeat vaginal smearing is done to determine effectiveness of therapy.
- Anti-fungal medications – Antifungal medications are also used in cases of yeast infections. Vaginal suppositories with anti-fungal medications as well as anti-fungal creams may be used. Oral anti-fungal treatments may also be used.
- Local anesthetics - Local anesthetics such as lidocaine may also be applied on the vagina to relieve burning and itching. Anesthetics are available in topical preparations so it can be used for local effects.
- Hormone Therapy - Hormone replacement such as estrogen therapy is also employed for menopausal women to relieve menopausal symptoms such as vaginal dryness.
Home Remedies for Vaginal Itching and Burning
Baking Soda Baths
Baking soda usually provides soothing effects in the vagina. However, baking soda should be used minimally because it can contribute to further change in the pH because of being alkaline.
Cold compress can also be placed over the vulva to temporarily relieve burning and itching.
Wear Cotton Underwear
Cotton effectively absorbs vaginal secretions and prevents irritation of the vagina. Be sure to change undergarments every day.
Use Water-Based Lubricants
Water-based lubricants may also be used to relieve vaginal dryness that causes irritation and itching.
Other remedies include:
- Use warm water and unscented soap for perineal hygiene
- Never scratch the area to prevent further irritation
- Avoid scented toilet papers, pads, washes and douches
- Wipe the vulva from front to back to prevent infection from the anus going to the vagina
- Avoid tight under wear
- Wash hands every now and then to prevent contamination of the vulva