Vaginal Itching 101: When It’s More Than a Yeast Infection

Sometimes, vaginal itching means you have a yeast infection; other times, the cause may be something else. Before you head to the store for more Monistat, find out which symptoms indicate a yeast infection and which do not.

vaginal yeast infection


Tell-Tale Signs of a Yeast Infection

Yeast infections are incredibly widespread. Some estimate that seventy-five percent of women will have more than two yeast infections in their lifetime. Even some men get yeast infections, too, though it is less typical. Common symptoms of yeast infections in women include itching, burning, discomfort during sex, and thicker, whiter vaginal discharge. Though they are incredibly uncomfortable, lots of over-the-counter treatments can help alleviate irritation related to yeast infections. If you have chronic yeast infections, it’s worth checking in with your doctor to ensure something else isn’t causing your distress. Plus, your doctor may have a prescription medication that more efficiently eases your symptoms. 

Yeast infections are caused when a fungus called candida grows uncontrollably. Estrogen regulates the vaginal production of lactobacilli, a type of bacteria that usually keeps fungus like candida in check. When estrogen production slows down during menopause, yeast infections can become more common. 

Yeast infections often mimic symptoms of other problems, so it’s important that you don’t automatically reach for the antifungal creams at the first sign of an itch. 


When It Could Be Something Else

Vaginal itching is most commonly linked with yeast infections, but there are other causes, too. Vaginitis, an umbrella term for the inflammation of the vagina, includes three itch-inducing conditions—only one of which is a yeast infection. Bacterial vaginosis is another, and this condition causes too much bacteria growth that is associated with douching or unprotected sex. Trichomoniasis is the third most common type of vaginitis, and it is a sexually transmitted infection of a parasite that causes itching and burning. Pubic lice, another sexually transmitted parasite, can cause itching, too.

Other sexually transmitted infections can trigger itchy symptoms. Herpes, chlamydia, genital warts, and gonorrhea all cause itching. If you think you might have a sexually transmitted infection, it’s essential that you get diagnosed and treated. Many STIs can be treated if not cured, and they are more common than you may have imagined. 

Allergy symptoms can often imitate yeast infections. If you’ve started using a new soap recently, consider switching to an allergen-free or unscented brand. Or, if you’ve started taking bubble baths, the detergent in the bubbles could be the culprit. Even a new laundry soap used to wash undergarments can cause a vaginal reaction. Consider anything new that comes in contact with your vaginal skin—including cosmetic oils, scented pads or tampons, lotions, and lubricants. 

Surprisingly, hemorrhoids can masquerade as yeast infections as well. One symptom of hemorrhoids is itchiness which can distress the vaginal skin. Sometimes, hemorrhoids are internal, so a visit to the doctor may be necessary for diagnosis. 

Lichen sclerosis is another condition that causes itchiness accompanied by white, patchy spots on the vaginal skin. Sometimes a biopsy is required to diagnose this, but corticosteroids or ointments can often treat it. 

Lastly, vaginal itching can be triggered by menopause or low estrogen. Since estrogen helps your skin produce collagen, less estrogen production can result in all of your skin feeling itchier—not just the skin around your genitals. However, vaginal itching and dryness is a common symptom of menopause.

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