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Reviewed by Frank Cockerill, MD, July 21, 2017
Vaginal itching (pruritis) is an uncomfortable symptom
that women can experience for a number of reasons. For women who
are sexually active, oftentimes the first concern that springs to mind is
that the itching could be caused by an STD. In reality, several other
culprits could be to blame for the itching, such as a yeast infection,
bacterial vaginosis (overgrowth of bacteria in the vaginal region) or an
allergic response to a product such as a lubricant, douche, or a new type
of soap or body wash.
Vaginal itching can be
caused by a variety of conditions.
can cause fairly intense itching with a whitish,
These infections are treated with topical or oral antifungal medications.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV)causes irritation and itching
accompanied by a thin, grey discharge and an unpleasant
odor. BV can occur in women who have never been sexually
active, so it is not considered an STD.
BV is treated with antibiotics,
which restores the "normal" balance
of bacteria in the vagina.
Vaginal itching can also be due to an allergic responseto products used in the vaginal area, often
accompanied by a rash and/or pain.
Using a topical analgesic and an
over-the-counter topical steroid can
help reduce these symptoms, as well as avoiding
the use of these products in the future.
STDs and vaginal itching
One particular STD that is often associated with vaginal itching is
Trichomoniasis is an
infection caused by a protozoan parasite, which can
cause vaginal itching, inflammation, and discharge with an unpleasant odor.
Trichomoniasis can be detected by a swab test,
and treated with antibiotics.
While a less common cause of itching, another STD that can produce
vaginal itching is herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2)
(the virus that causes genital herpes). Herpes
outbreaks are normally thought of as painful rather than itchy, but itching can
also be present, especially preceding an outbreak or as the lesions are healing.
Herpes does not have a cure, but the symptoms can be managed with medications.
The only way to know whether vaginal itching is caused by an STD or a
non-STD process is to get tested. Going to
your physician for a physical exam and medical evaluation is important any
time you notice any unusual symptoms. For those who are sexually active, if
you have a symptom such as vaginal itching and have never been screened for
STDs, have ever had unprotected sex, or have had a new partner since your
last STD test, comprehensive STD screening is recommended.