Itchiness in the vulva is characterized by an irritation of the vulvar tissues and an intense desire to scratch the affected area. Scratching may, in fact, exacerbate the condition. Many researchers believe that a chemical called histamine is released during the physical act of scratching and this may trigger a circular pattern of itch-scratch-itch pattern. Chronic itchiness may lead to skin changes and a variety of chronic vulvar skin conditions. An itchy vulva may be very distressing and can impact activities of daily living. There are many common conditions which are known to cause vulvar itchiness. Some common causes include.
- Vulvar infections: Vulvovaginal infections, including common yeast infections can cause itching and are usually brought on by antibiotic and oral contraceptive use, menstruation, pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes or an immunodeficient condition, like HIV (disease/infection). Other infections like sexually transmitted infections may also have itchiness as a symptom.
- Chemical Irritants: harsh chemicals like detergents, feminine sprays, perfumes, douches, foams or even latex or seminal fluid /sperm sensitivities can all affect and irritate the vuvlar tissues.
- Menopause: when a woman stops her period at the menopause, she may develop atrophic vulvar changes due to a gradual decline in circulating estrogen levels which may in fact cause the vulvar tissues to thin and be more susceptible to trauma. The excessive dryness may also present as itchiness on the exterior genitals.
There are other less common causes of vuvlar itchiness and they include cancerous and precancerous conditions and pinworms for young girls.