The medical term for “itchy vaginal area” is vulvovaginitis, which refers to inflammation of the vagina and vulva. As a reminder, the vulva refers to the external genitals you can see, including the clitoris, labia (majora and minora), urethra, and the vaginal opening. The vagina, on the other hand, is the internal canal that connects the vulva to the cervix.
It’s really important to distinguish the two because there's a difference between what causes vaginal itching and what causes vulvar itching — and the first step is correctly identifying where the itch comes from.
Keep reading to learn about the most common causes of vulvovaginitis and how to stop itching down there.
Why is my vagina itchy?
You might feel itchy down there for many different reasons, from a chronic skin condition to a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Below is a lowdown of the 15 most likely explanations for an itchy vaginal area.
Vaginal infections are probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of vaginal itching. Not all vaginal infections cause vulvovaginitis, but here are some of the more common ones that do.
Vaginal yeast infections, or vaginal candidiasis, are an incredibly common condition caused by the overgrowth of the fungus Candida in the vagina. The most common symptoms of a yeast infection are:
- Vaginal itching, redness, or soreness
- abnormal discharge that is white and clumpy, like cottage cheese
- burning or pain during sex
- soreness or stinging when you pee.
Cytolytic vaginosis (CV) is a condition that occurs when Lactobacilli, the good bacteria in your vaginal microbiome, overgrow. Yes, you can have too much of a good thing.
The symptoms of CV are almost identical to those of a yeast infection (abnormal discharge, itchiness, and vaginal pain), which means the condition is often misdiagnosed. It also doesn’t help that CV is very poorly defined. Most doctors aren’t familiar with it, and researchers have yet to figure out which Lactobacillus species causes it or what levels of Lactobacilli are “too much.”
Sexually transmitted infections
An itchy vaginal area after sex could be a sign that you’ve contracted an STI. There are over 30 known sexually transmitted infections and diseases, but not all of them cause itching.
Trichomoniasis, or "trich," is a type of STI caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Around 70% of people with trichomoniasis don't experience any symptoms, but when they do, they can include:
- Vaginal itching and irritation
- Fishy-smelling discharge that is green, grey, frothy, or thin
- Pain or burning when peeing
- The frequent need to pee
- Spotting or bleeding between periods
- Pain during sex.
Chlamydia is the most common STI in the U.S. and worldwide. It’s caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Like many STIs, it’s generally asymptomatic, but signs of chlamydia include:
- Abnormal discharge that is white, yellow, or has a foul smell
- Vaginal itching and burning
- Pus in your urine (pyuria)
- A frequent need to pee
- Pain or burning when peeing
- Pain during sex
- Pain or tenderness in the lower belly
- Vaginal bleeding between periods.
- Painful periods.
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection caused by two types of viruses known as herpes simplex virus 1 and herpes simplex virus 2. The symptoms of genital herpes may include:
- Blisters or sores on the vulva, thighs, or bottom
- Vaginal itching and burning
- Pain or discomfort when you pee
- Abnormal discharge.
Colloquially known as "crabs," public lice are tiny insects that can live on your body hair, including your pubes. They're not technically considered an STI but are generally spread via sexual contact.
If you have pubic lice, you might experience some uncomfortable symptoms, such as:
- Intense itching that usually gets worse at night
- Irritation and inflammation from scratching
- Tiny blue spots or blood spots on the skin of your lower abdomen or thighs from lice bites.
Urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are bacterial infections in your kidneys, bladder, or urethra (cystitis). Common UTI symptoms include:
- Burning or stinging sensation when you pee
- An intense and frequent need to pee
- Itching in your urethra (which can feel like itching in the vulva)
- Feeling like you can’t fully empty your bladder
- Cloudy or red pee that has a strong or foul smell
- Pain in your lower tummy and pelvic area
- A fever.
No discharge, just itchy? An itchy vulva isn’t always a sign of infection. Sometimes, it’s caused by skin disorders. Some of the most common skin conditions that can affect the skin around your vulva are:
Lichen planus is a chronic skin condition that causes a dry, itchy rash on the labia, clitoris, and vaginal opening (as well as other parts of the body). Other symptoms of vulvar lichen planus include:
- Pain or burning around the vulva and vagina
- Soreness, burning, and itching around the vulva
- Pain when having sex or peeing
- Bleeding after sex
- Abnormal vaginal discharge.
Lichen sclerosus is a long-term inflammatory skin condition that causes white, dry patches on the vulva and anus. The symptoms of lichen sclerosis vary from person to person, and some people might not even experience any symptoms. If they do, the most common telltale signs of vulvar lichen sclerosus are:
- Dry, white patches on the vulva
- Itching and soreness of the vulva that can get worse at night
- Tearing and bruising of the skin
- Discomfort and pain around the vulva and vagina
- Pain when having sex
- Bleeding, blistering, or ulcers on the vulva.
If you're experiencing vulvar itching and irritation, it could be contact dermatitis. Vulvar dermatitis can cause itching, irritation, and inflammation.
This happens when the delicate skin on and around your vulva comes into contact with something that causes irritation, including chemical irritants in everyday products like fabric softeners, bubble baths, creams, wipes, or even clothing. Symptoms of vulvar dermatitis include:
- Redness or rash
- Severe itching and burning
- Cracked, scaly, dry skin, blisters, and bumps
- Swollen or tender vulva.
Another dermatologic issue affecting the vulva is eczema, an inflammatory skin condition that can make the skin red, dry, and itchy. Eczema can be triggered by stress, as well as allergic reactions to chemical irritants.
Vaginal dryness and itching go hand in hand. The hormone estrogen plays a crucial role in vaginal health, keeping your vaginal mucosa thick, lubricated, and elastic. Estrogen levels drop thanks to the hormonal changes caused by perimenopause, which makes the vaginal tissue drier and more delicate than usual. Some symptoms of vaginal dryness are:
- Vaginal itching and soreness
- Redness and inflammation of the vulva
- Pain or discomfort during and after sex
- Painful sex
- Bleeding after sex.
Sometimes, that itchy sensation on your vulva is nothing more than razor burns. Shaving can sometimes cause a painful, itchy rash on your skin. It's nothing to worry about, but it can be irritating as hell. You might also notice some itchiness when the hair starts to grow back.
There are a few reasons why your vagina is itchy after sex, and it doesn't always mean you’ve contracted an STI.
For one, penetration causes friction that can irritate your vaginal mucosa and the skin of your vulva (both of which are pretty sensitive) — especially if you weren’t aroused enough.
Another reason why you might feel itchy after sex is due to a reaction to condoms, lube, or spermicides.
It's rare, but sometimes a persistent itch down there could be a sign of vulvar cancer. Several types of vulvar cancers exist, but itching is a common symptom. In addition, other symptoms of vulvar cancer include:
- An open sore or growth visible on the skin
- Bleeding, pain, or soreness
- Thickened, raised, red, white, or dark patches on the skin
- A mole that changes shape or color
- A lump or swelling in the groin
- Burning or pain when you pee.
Remember that vulvar cancer isn’t common, and these can be symptoms of something much more harmless, like a skin condition or vaginal infection. A good rule of thumb is to contact your healthcare provider if you notice anything unusual down there.
Itchy vaginal area treatment
The first step in treating vulvar and vaginal itching is contacting your healthcare provider for a diagnosis. As you can see, there’s a whole list of reasons why your vulva and vagina might be irritated. Your doctor can determine the underlying cause and offer the best treatment options.
Antibiotics or antiviral medication can do the trick if an STI or vaginal infection causes the itching. Your doctor will prescribe an antifungal treatment if you have a yeast infection. If it's a skin condition causing the itchiness, your doctor might recommend a soothing cream, ointment, or antihistamines.
In addition to getting a physical exam from your provider, it can be incredibly helpful to take a comprehensive vaginal microbiome test like Evvy’s, which screens for 700+ bacteria and fungi in the vaginal microbiome. If you’re concerned that an STI may be to blame for your itch, Evvy’s Expanded PCR Panel tests for chlamydia, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, and Mycoplasma genitalium.
For eligible testers, we offer first-of-its-kind clinical care, including an Rx treatment program developed by a provider, supportive coaching, and much more.
Home remedies for itchy vaginal area
There are a few home remedies for genital itching and burning that you can try. These might temporarily relieve any annoying itching and reduce inflammation, but as always, it’s a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before trying any of them.
- Soak in a colloidal oatmeal bath for around 20 minutes.
- Place a cold compress over your vulva.
- Apply pure, fragrance-free aloe vera gel, vitamin E, or hyaluronic acid to the skin of your vulva.
- Use an over-the-counter emollient or soothing cream.
FAQs about Vaginal Itching
Why am I so itchy from down there?
You might feel itchy down there for a myriad of reasons. Vaginal infections like cytolytic vaginosis, yeast infections, chronic skin conditions, and STIs cause burning and itching in and around your vagina. Sometimes, it's down to something entirely harmless, like razor burn or not using enough lube during sex. Contact your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment if you're experiencing any vaginal or vulvar itching.
Why does my pubic area itch at night?
There are a few reasons why vulvar itching gets worse at night. Itching from pubic lice or lichen sclerosus may worsen at night, or it could be due to fewer distractions and heightened awareness of bodily sensations while trying to fall asleep.
How do you get rid of itching down there?
Treatment for vulvar or vaginal irritation varies depending on the cause. Most infections are treated with antibiotics or antifungals in the case of yeast infections. If a skin condition causes itching, your doctor might recommend topical soothing creams or antihistamine treatment.