Vaginal itching: a common problem of the young and old
If you are experiencing itching or irritation at your private parts, your body is trying to tell you something.
Itching of the vulva and vagina are one of the common complaints in many women, varying from as young as 5 years old to some more than 60. It can be really disturbing and stressful when it persists for some days. More severe itching can lead to pain, ugly scratch marks and darkening of the vulval skin.
Let us start from the vulva. Persistent itching of this site may be caused by infection, allergy, or a reason as simple as poor personal hygiene. The third is common in most children, the poor, the elderly and one who is suffering from psychological problem. In short, personal hygiene is poor when it meets one who is unable to look after herself well. Itching can also appear when one keeps her private areas warm and moist, which is a favorable condition for bacterial growth. In the elderly, vulval and vaginal itching can be due to dryness of the skin and vaginal lining. This is a normal condition of aging caused by low level of female hormones. But sometimes, it may be caused by cancer.
Infections and infestations which are mainly sexually transmitted is a more probable cause in younger women who are more likely to be sexually active. Infections such as herpes, trichomoniasis, yeast infections (candida) and bacterial vaginosis are some causes to be named. Pubic lice (also called ‘crabs’) may also be included.
Scabies and tinea cruris (a fungal infection also known as ‘ringworm’) are also some underlying causes. Though, they are not limited to the private parts. They cause itching of various parts of the body including the private parts. They are not transmitted by sexual contact, but rather normal contact with close people such as relatives and friends.
Skin diseases and allergy are not to be missed. Eczema may spread to the private parts and cause irritation. Psoriasis and lichen simplex chronicus may also be considered.
Of course, you may be confused of what is the cause of the irritation you are experiencing. You might want to consult a doctor, but seldom have the time for it. Nevertheless, the itching is driving you nuts. You might want to drop by a pharmacy to get some over-the-counter medications in the meantime. Lidocaine gel is a good choice. This is an anaesthetic which paralyses skin from feeling the itch. It does not, in any way, treat the cause of itching. In the elderly or pregnant, where hormonal levels are most probably the main causes, baking soda baths and pastes can be relieving. Sexual intercourse also helps, as changes in hormonal level causes increases pH of the vaginal lining (causes itching), which can be opposed by male semen which has a lower pH level.
Be sure to consult your doctor if symptoms persist. Ruling out STD and cancer is the main aim. If you are pregnant, always seek a doctor’s advice before trying out any remedies. Always keep your private parts clean, dry and airy. Avoid wearing tight clothes. After defecating, it is better to wash and then wipe from front to back to avoid any bacteria from entering the vagina. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Dr (Ms) De Souza
MD (Russia), MMed (Obs&Gyn)