Why is my vagina itchy? A doctor explains the most common reason why.

Video by Mamamia

For a body part that half the population has, there sure is a lot of mystery and confusion about the vagina.

From bleeding to itching, many of us feel too embarrassed to ask or tell anyone if we’re experiencing anything out of the ordinary, or at least not straight away.

And no, self diagnosis by Google is never a good idea.

So we got expert Dr Ginni Mansberg to give us the, erm, low down on all things itchy downstairs. What’s normal, what’s not and when you should think about making an appointment with your doctor.

Yes, it could be thrush.

“An itchy fanny is so common. Most women suspect when it’s itchy that it is thrush so they get themselves some cream which feels soothing when it goes on and gives temporary relief but two to three tubes later, it’s still there,” she says.

“The problem is a lack of knowledge around our lady gardens because we just don’t talk about. All itches are not always thrush.”

Image via Getty.

So what if it is?

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"Thrush can be vaginal, so internal, which means you'll get white discharge and make it quite sore," explains Dr Ginni.

"You can also get vulval thrush but it's more stingy than itchy and looks like little paper cuts on the vulva."

Or herpes.

"Herpes can also give you an itch but it's pretty shortlived. It's amazing how few women realise they have herpes until we look at it," she says.

"Don't ignore that, that's worth diagnosing. We don't really want to be putting steroid cream (treatment for other itchy skin conditions) on herpes."

But most likely it's dermatitis.

"Assume if it's itching, it's most likely dermatitis," she says.

Inflammation of the skin, dermatitis usually appears in the form of an itchy rash on swollen or red skin.

The number one cause? Soap.

Listen: Did you know around 50% of women feel ashamed about their vaginas? Post continues after audio.

"No soap belongs on the vulva. I see women who think the itch is gross and dirty so they wash more and it makes the itch worse," explains Dr Ginni.

"When you've got vulval dermatistis, the soap breaks the barriers between the skin cells, allows the skin to dry out and it gets worse."

According to Dr Ginni, it disturbs the microbiome of the vulva and vagina, which naturally is very acidic with a pH level of 3.8 - about the same as an orange. Soap, which is an alkaline, mucks this up.

The fruitier the soap or shower gel, the worse it is and if you're using it every day then you're permanently disrupting the vulva. This allows bad bacteria to thrive and leads to thrush (see above), bacterial vaginosis (a foul smell) and dermatitis (see below).

The good news with dermatitis is you don't necessarily have to go to the doctor.

"First things first, remove all soap from your genitals. It's fine on armpits but not genitals. Instead, switch to a moisturising cream. Sorbolene, Paw Paw cream or even nappy cream is great," she says.

If that's not doing enough, she advises going to a pharmacy and buying one per cent hydrocortizone cream - which you can get over the counter - and use four times a day.

"If you forget to put it on and the symptoms haven't bothered you, then you probably don't need it any more," she says.

If you have very sensitive skin, you might need to go see a doctor for a stronger prescription and get a mild strength steroid cream.

"They're really effective and normally work very quickly, in 24 - 48 hours max. If you are not getting any relief from that in a week, then you might need to go see a doctor."

Also take care not to scratch.

(Image: iStock)

"If you scratch skin that is damaged, if you've got dirty fingernails because the skin is not intact, you can introduce infections and your dermatitis can turn into a nasty infection and make it harder to heal."

The, erm, bottom line on all this? If you want to avoid the itch, don't use soap down there.

"Ideally, use water or if you want something else, try sorbelene cream, an over the counter moisturiser that has no perfume in it and it's cheap as chips," she says.

Otherwise she advises looking for anything that's a soap free wash and is neutral or skin friendly pH, so about 5.5. You can also find specialist washes for the vulva in supermarkets and pharmacies.

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