Vaginal irritation affects most women at some point in their lives and can range in severity from slightly annoying to overwhelmingly painful.
Whether you experience frequent vaginal skin irritation or irritation for the first time, the below guide will tell you what you need to know about vaginal irritation symptoms, causes, and treatments.
What is vaginal irritation?
As the name suggests, vaginal irritation refers to any itching or irritation experienced in and around the vulva and the vagina. This includes the labia, clitoris, and the vaginal opening.
Vaginal irritation can be extremely uncomfortable and, in some cases, even painful.
Most genital itching and irritation are not cause for concern. However, sometimes, vaginal irritation can be a sign of an infection.
What are the main symptoms of vaginal irritation?
The main symptoms of vaginal irritation are:
- An itchy or sore vagina
- An unusual vaginal discharge
- Pain during urination
- Pain during sex
- Sore or swollen skin around the vagina
What causes vaginal irritation?
There are several possible causes of vaginal irritation, including:
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common infection that is caused by an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the vagina. The most common symptoms of BV are:
- A thin, grey, white, or yellow discharge
- A distinct fishy odour
- Vaginal itching
- Burning during urination
A yeast infection, known as vaginal candidiasis, affects three in every four women at some point in their lives. The most common symptoms that a yeast infection presents are:
- A thick, white and clumpy discharge
- Vaginal itching
- Vaginal soreness/redness
- Pain when urinating
- Pain during sex
Sexually transmitted infection
If you have unprotected sex, you may be at risk of a sexually transmitted disease. Some of the more common symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease include:
- An unusual discharge that may be yellow or green
- A foul-smelling discharge
- Vaginal irritation or itching
- Burning during urination
- Pain during sex
- Abdominal pain
The most common sexually transmitted diseases that can cause vaginal irritation are chlamydia, genital herpes, and gonorrhoea.
When you go through menopause, you will experience a drop in oestrogen levels. This can cause the vaginal walls to become dry and thin, which can sometimes lead to vaginal irritation.
Some women are more sensitive to chemical irritants such as scented soaps, creams, and even condoms. This can cause irritation to both the vulva and the vagina. If you suffer from vaginal irritation from soap, stop using these products and you should see an improvement in your symptoms.
This is a rare condition that causes white patches to form on the skin, including the vulva. These patches can permanently scar the vulva and cause vaginal irritation.
How to treat vaginal irritation
In mild cases, vaginal irritation does not require any treatment and will naturally go away on its own.
However, if you experience persistent vaginal irritation or you have other symptoms that are causing you discomfort or concern, there are several vaginal irritation treatment options available to you.
Bacterial vaginosis can be treated using either an over-the-counter such as Multi-Gyn ActiGel, or antibiotics that are prescribed by your doctor.
These antibiotics can be taken orally in the form of a tablet or inserted in gel form into the vagina.
It is worth noting that BV often comes back, especially within 3 months of treatment, so you may require more than one course of antibiotics to treat this infection.
If the cause of your vaginal irritation is a yeast infection, then you need to use a natural based medication such as such as Multi-Gyn FloraPlus. These do not require a prescription and can be bought over-the-counter at most pharmacies or online.
You can either take thrush medication orally or use a pessary that is inserted into the vagina. You can also buy cream for vaginal irritation caused by thrush.
Sexually transmitted infection
Sexually transmitted diseases are usually treated with antibiotics which will need to be prescribed by your GP or a sexual health practitioner.
The exact antibiotic that you are prescribed will depend on the type of STD that you have, although most of these antibiotics are taken orally.
If you have vagina redness, vagina discomfort, or itching inside the vagina as a result of the menopause, you can either treat it with an over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer such as Multi-Gyn LiquiGel, or your doctor can prescribe you a topical oestrogen cream.
Other treatments for vaginal irritation
Is your skin irritated in the intimate area? You can try Multi-Gyn CalmingCream which soothes and protects irritated, dry and itchy skin in the intimate are. Or your GP can prescribe steroid creams that help to reduce inflammation and irritation. These can also be used to relieve vaginal irritation caused by lichen sclerosis.
Are there any natural remedies for vaginal itching?
If you would prefer to try a more natural remedy for vaginal irritation, there are several. However, it is worth noting that there is limited scientific evidence to support these remedies and you will see much more effective results with approved medications.
Baking soda bath
Baking soda has antifungal properties which means it may be able to soothe and treat the symptoms of vaginal thrush.
If you have a burning vaginal opening or an itchy clitoris, Greek yoghurt can help to soothe your vaginal irritation.
If you have vaginal or vulva irritation, then cotton underwear can help to reduce any itchiness. If you are prone to yeast infections, cotton underwear can help to prevent an overgrowth of candida which causes thrush.
Apple cider vinegar bath
Apple cider vinegar may soothe the symptoms of a yeast infection and can help to minimise vaginal irritation.
Vaginal irritation is often caused by an overgrowth of bad bacteria. Probiotic supplements can help to suppress these bad vaginal bacteria and support the growth of good bacteria.
If you are prone to either bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections, then probiotic supplements can help restore your vagina’s pH balance and keep it healthy.
What causes vaginal irritation before your period?
Before your period, hormone shifts can cause vaginal irritation. However, in some cases, vaginal irritation can be caused by:
When you are menstruating, this can increase your skin’s sensitivity. This, in turn, can cause vaginal irritation and soreness.
If you have a chronic illness, you are more likely to be affected by vaginal inflammation before your period.
Some women have adverse reactions to period products such as pads and tampons. Tampons, in particular, can leave the vagina feeling dry and itchy.
If you experience itchiness when using period products, it can be a good idea to switch to unscented pads or silicone menstrual cups. You should avoid leaving tampons in overnight.
Vaginal infections such as thrush and bacterial infections can occur at any time during your menstrual cycle. These can cause vaginal irritation, vaginal soreness, a change in discharge, and pain during urination.
What causes vaginal irritation after sex?
If you experience vaginal irritation after sex, there are several possible causes:
If you feel sore or itchy after sex, this can be caused by a lack of lubrication. If this is the cause of your vaginal irritation, then your symptoms should clear in a few days without any treatment needed.
To avoid this problem in the future, use a water-based lubricant and make sure that you engage in enough foreplay before penetration.
A semen allergy, known as seminal plasma hypersensitivity, is a rare allergic reaction that can affect your vagina, mouth, and skin. It is possible to have an allergic reaction to one partner’s semen and not another. It is also possible to suddenly have a reaction to a long-term partner’s semen.
If you are allergic to semen, then you should wear a condom each time you have sex to prevent any vaginal irritation.
A latex allergy is an allergic reaction to the proteins that are found in latex. If you have a latex allergy, you can experience vaginal itching and soreness after using latex condoms or any other products that contain latex.
If you are allergic to latex, you should use non-latex condoms when having sex to avoid irritation.
Vaginal dryness, common in menopausal and post-menopausal women, can cause vaginal irritation and soreness, especially after sex.
Some women are naturally prone to vaginal dryness, while others suffer from vaginal dryness due to a skin condition such as eczema.
To combat vaginal dryness, use a water-based lubricant when having sex. You may also want to try a vaginal moisturiser like Multi-Gyn LiquiGel.
A pH imbalance
Your vaginal pH balance should be between 3.8 and 4.5. If it goes higher than this, harmful bacteria in your vagina are allowed to grow. This can lead to vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis.
To keep your vaginal pH balance at the optimum level, practice safe sex and take a daily probiotic.
Vaginal irritation FAQs
Why is my vagina itchy?
If your vagina is itchy, you most likely have an infection such as thrush or bacterial vaginosis. These infections are caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina and are not sexually transmitted diseases. Both these infections can be treated with over-the-counter medications.
An itchy vagina can also be caused by chemical irritants such as perfumed soaps and harsh detergents.
Is BV itchy?
BV, bacterial vaginosis, can cause vaginal itching and irritation but is more recognisable by a distinct fishy smell. Vaginal itching is more commonly the result of a yeast infection which also often comes with a thick, white and clumpy discharge.
How do I make my private area stop itching?
If your itching is caused by an infection, then the right treatment will stop any symptoms you have. If your itching is caused by an irritant such as scented soaps or washing powder, you should stop using these, and the itching should go away.
What to use to stop itching vagina?
You can buy antifungal medication if a yeast infection is causing the itching or get a topical oestrogen cream prescribed to your while you experience the menopause. You could also try wearing cotton underwear.
How to stop vaginal burning?
Vaginal burning can be caused by a vaginal infection, a sexually transmitted disease, a urinary tract infection, or it can be caused by an irritant. To stop vaginal burning, you need to first find out the cause of your symptoms. Most cases of vaginal burning can be treated with either over-the-counter medication or antibiotics.
What are the best home remedies for vaginal itching?
The best home remedies for vaginal itching include probiotics, a cool compress, and wearing cotton underwear. You should not douche if you have vaginal itching, as this can make your symptoms worse.