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Intimate itching, what causes it and what are the solutions to relieve it?

Is your vagina driving you mad? Is your vulva on fire? Your pussy bright red? Tender private parts? A burning sensation down there? Basically, you’re itching like mad and you don't know why, but something is wrong with your vulva. Joking apart, all the answers to your questions are HERE!

 

Intimate itching, also known as vulvar pruritis, is very common. In fact, nearly one woman in 5 will have some form of vaginal irritation1 lasting more than 3 months during thecourse of her life. Intimate parts are characterised by a variety of different skin types: some with hair, others without, the entrance to the vagina does not even the protective outer layer that is found on the skin, it is just a mucous membrane, which is even more sensitive. So intimate parts can get irritated very easily.

 

Allergy or contact irritation

Have you changed your brand of panty liners or laundry detergent recently? That might be the cause of your redness and itching. It sometimes takes a few days of contact for an irritation to develop, so if you have changed your habits in the last few days, change your product to make sure that it’s not your new underwear that is causing this irritation.

Generally speaking, choose cotton pants which are not too tight, so they wick away sweat and avoid irritation, and avoid scented products (wipes, soap, sanitary towels, laundry detergents etc.), because perfumes often cause allergies. Think twice if you are using perfumed sanitary towels and you always suffer from irritation during your period! (more info here)

Pubic lice

Also known as crabs! Let us reassure you straight away, this is not a sign of poor hygiene, because pubic lice cling tightly to the skin with their claws (this little microscopic insect looks like a crab). It is transmitted by direct contact with an infected person and also via bed linen, towels or worn clothing (watch out when trying on swimsuits! Always keep your underwear on).

The symptoms are itching (more severe at night time) caused by the bites, which appear red and then blue-grey.

It is very easy to get rid of them: one or two applications of a shampoo prescribed by your doctor are all it takes. To prevent any recurrence, it is important to tell your recent sexual partners and wash your bedding and your underwear at 90°C.

Vaginal yeast infection

A vaginal yeast infection is very often caused by a fungus: Candida albicans. This microscopic fungus occurs naturally in the vaginal flora, the microcosm of bacteria and yeasts that colonises the vagina and keeps it in good health. But sometimes, antibiotic treatments or overly aggressive intimate hygiene can disrupt the vaginal flora and then Candida albicans becomes too prolific, which causes itching and odourless white vaginal discharge.

To relieve these symptoms, antifungal creams are available without prescription in pharmacies, which can be useful if you know you are prone to repeated fungal infections. However, only a doctor can confirm with certainty that you actually have a yeast infection and take a sample if necessary to identify the specific germ and the most suitable treatment.

Vaginal dryness

Vaginal dryness, a source of irritation and discomfort rather than itching, is common in postmenopausal women, but the menopause is not the only cause of vaginal dryness. Vaginal dryness can be caused by overly aggressive intimate hygiene, pregnancy or taking certain drugs (antidepressants, antihistamines etc.). About 55% of women will actually suffer from it during their lifetime²!

If this is the only symptom that you have, you can just use a local solution: lubricants (which have an immediate but short term effect) and moisturising gels (which have a more long term effect) will be your best friends! You can get these in a pharmacy, with or without a prescription. On the other hand, if vaginal dryness is accompanied by hot flushes, or irregular periods, you might be perimenopausal. In this case it is important to talk about it and get advice from a health care professional who will guide you in this new stage of your intimate life.

 

We know all too well, this itching and irritation is sometimes hard to manage but there are solutions! The most important thing is to talk to a health care professional, who will guide you in the right direction.

 

 

 

1 C.K. Stockdale, L. Boardman, “Diagnosis And Treatment Of Vulvar Dermatoses”, Clinical Expert Series, 2018 Feb, 131(2) : 371-386.

² SOGC Clinical Practice Guidelines, “The Detection And Management Of Vaginal Atrophy”, International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 2005, 88, 222-228.

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