Dealing with a vaginal itch can be very frustrating, but there is no need to panic if this happens a few days before your period. This itching is often accompanied with vaginal dryness. You may also experience burning around the vaginal wall, which might worsen with walking or physical activities. For some, this itchy, burning sensation can begin as early as 10 days before your period. For others, this may only occur for the duration of the period. This is completely normal and rarely a cause for concern. The symptoms can be relieved with basic preventive measures, such as proper tampon selection and ointments.
However, this itch may be indicative of an underlying infection. You should consult your physician if this itch does not subside after the end of your period.
Causes of Vaginal Itching
There are two types of vaginal itch:
- Normal vaginal itch: This occurs in most women around the time of their period. This usually happens due to a drop in estrogen levels, which leads to the thinning and inflammation of the vaginal wall. It is normal for this to be accompanied by a stinging sensation around the vaginal opening and lower third of vagina.
- Abnormal vaginal itch: This condition is caused by relatively less common conditions such as infections or STDs. The symptoms are much more intense and last longer than normal vaginal itch. This kind of itch is often accompanied by a reddish brown vaginal discharge.
Some other common causes of vaginal itching are:
- Allergies - Allergic reactions to specific substances referred to as irritants/allergens can cause vaginal itching. Allergens may be present in many common items like detergents, ointments, and fabric softeners. In some cases, you may even be allergic to the chemicals used in tampons and sanitary pads. If you suspect this, consult with doctor to determine the right variety for you.
- Menopause - Menopause is a time in woman's life when she stops menstruating. This causes estrogen levels to drop, which indirectly leads to vaginal dryness and itchiness. Menopause can also be caused by secondary treatments like chemotherapy or hysterectomy.
- Hormonal fluctuations - Fluctuations of hormones (mainly estrogen) are often responsible for vaginal dryness as well as itching. Vaginal wall tissues have estrogen receptors and the hormone estrogen keeps them healthy, supple, and able to be lubricated. Any fluctuation in estrogen levels in the body, which often occurs around the time of your period, can cause vaginal itching.
- Tight clothing - Wearing uncomfortably tight leads to excess perspiration especially near closed regions like vagina, armpits, etc. The sweat will not evaporate from the skin fast enough, which can lead to itching around these regions. Prolonged wear of tight clothing can also lead to infections. Try wearing loose and pure cotton clothing to relieve your symptoms.
- Stress - Stress is also known to exacerbate the itching and make the vagina more susceptible to infections. Try not to think about the itching too much and instead keep yourself busy.
- Other causes - Other common causes of vaginal itching include a precancerous skin condition in the vulva tissues or a parasitic infection, which mainly affects children.
Home Remedies for Vaginal Itching
If you feel that your symptoms are indicative of a normal vaginal itch, you may want to follow some self-care tips to help reduce or avoid this itching.
- Choose cotton cloth and keep clean - Avoid panties and pantyhose made of synthetic fabric materials. Stick to pure cotton clothing and undergarments to avoid any form of skin irritation. This also goes for things like bed sheets or any other form of fabric that you frequently use. Keep special clothing like bathing/exercise suits clean and avoid long use.
- Select right hygienic products - Carefully select tampons and sanitary pads. Some are scented and often contain chemicals to avoid infection. People susceptible to allergies might experience a vaginal itch as a result of contact with these substances.
- Keep the vaginal area clean - Properly cleaning and cleansing the region from vagina to anus after urinating or having a bowel movement is essential to maintaining proper hygiene. Taking a shower instead of a bath can help you rinse away irritants that can be causing itchiness. In some cases using a medicated douche can help rinse away irritants that are causing your vagina to itch.
- Maintain bacterial balance - The healthy functioning of the vaginal and vulva wall depends on certain types of beneficial bacteria which help avoid infection. Eating yogurt with live cultures helps maintain this balance of bacteria. Make sure to avoid too many flavored yogurts and stick to plain ones with live cultures. If you are on antibiotics, you can consider taking Lactobacillus Acidophilus tablets to increase the presence of good bacteria in the vaginal area.
- Keep the vagina dry - If you suffer from diabetes, try to keep blood sugar under control. Increased glucose levels reduce water content in tissues, leaving them dry. The vaginal wall is one of the most sensitive tissues in the body, so it reacts to this reduced water content in the form of vaginal dryness and a subsequent itch.
- Ice the area - Applying an ice pack wrapped in a clean cloth on the lips of the vagina can help soothe the itching. Leave this ice pack in place for about an hour, and then cover the area in witch hazel to prevent the itching from returning.
- Apply soothing products - Sprinkling talcum powder on the genitals can help relieve itching. Yogurt can also help reduce itching, particularly itching that is caused by a yeast infection. Immersing the vagina in a sitz bath containing a half cup apple cider vinegar and water can help rid your body of irritants that are harming the vagina. Keep your legs spread to allow this mixture to flow freely around your genitals.
- Consume the right foods - Eating probiotic yogurt and drinking plenty of water can also help the body flush away irritants that are causing vaginal itchiness.
- Avoid sex - If you are experiencing severe itchiness in the vagina, avoid having sex until the condition clears. The friction of sex can cause your condition to worsen or it can cause you to spread your infection to your sexual partner.
When to See a Doctor
If you are experiencing a continuous vaginal itch unrelated to your period, it might be a serious sign requiring immediate medical attention. The following lists accompanying symptoms, which if experienced should be brought to the attention of a medical professional.
- Brownish or reddish brown vaginal discharge, along with swelling, which hints towards an infection.
- Lower abdominal or pelvic pain.
- Unexplained weight loss, fatigue, frequent urination, or a burning sensation while urinating.
- Blisters or ulcers in your vagina or vulva.
- Your sexual partner feels symptoms such as itching or burning while urinating. This might signify a sexually transmitted disease.