Vaginal Itching and Swelling: Causes and Treatments

Most women experience a vaginal itching and/or swelling at some point. There are other symptoms too, such as redness and even pain. It is also possible to experience spotting along with unusual vaginal discharge. It is important to treat the itching and swelling as soon as possible to avoid further complications.

What Causes Vaginal Itching and Swelling?

So many factors can contribute to vaginal swelling and itching. It could be due to an infection or might be the result of having your vagina exposed to irritating chemicals. Here are some possible causes.

1. Irritants

You may end up dealing with vaginal itching when you expose your vagina to products that contain irritating chemicals, such as creams, ointments, douches, detergents, soaps, topical contraceptives, scented toilet paper, and more. These irritants can lead to an allergic reaction, which in turn can cause itching, redness, and swelling.

2. Yeast Infection

While yeast is a naturally occurring fungus, an overgrowth can lead to several complications. This can cause an infection called vaginal yeast infection which is a common condition and affects 3 out of 4 women at some point. You are likely to develop this infection when you take antibiotics on a long-term basis, as this destroys good bacteria and results in an imbalance in the vagina.

3. Bacterial Vaginosis

An imbalance between good and bad bacteria can also lead to bacterial vaginosis (BV), which can cause symptoms like itching, swelling, and a foul-smelling discharge. Not every woman suffering from bacterial vaginosis has symptoms, but you should see your doctor immediately if you have itching along with a foul-smelling discharge that is thin and dull gray in color.

4. Sexually Transmitted Diseases

You can expose yourself to several sexually transmitted diseases and infections when you have unprotected sex. Some of the most common STDs that can cause vaginal itching and swelling are gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, and trichomoniasis. You may also have additional symptoms such as yellow/green vaginal discharge, abnormal growths, and pain while urinating.

5. Menopause

You are at an increased risk of vaginal itching if you are currently going through menopause or have already done so. This is mainly due to reduced estrogen levels – a reduction in estrogen levels can lead to vaginal atrophy and cause irritation, itching and swelling.

6. Other Causes

Here are some other reasons why you may be experiencing vaginal itching, irritation, and swelling.

  • You use an intrauterine device to prevent pregnancy.
  • You take steroids or antibiotics.
  • You wear tight-fitting or damp clothing.
  • You have poorly controlled diabetes.
  • You have skin conditions, such as lichen planus or desquamative vaginitis.
  • You have cancer of the vagina or cervix.

When to Get Medical Advice

You should go talk to your doctor in the following cases:

  • You have itching along with bad-smelling vaginal discharge.
  • You have never experienced a vaginal infection before.
  • You have a history of experiencing vaginal infections but your symptoms are different now.
  • You are sexually active and have had a number of sexual partners.
  • You have received treatment for vaginal thrush but symptoms are still there.

How Is Vaginal Itching and Swelling Treated?

It is important to identify the underlying cause to determine the best treatment option. Here is how your doctors may proceed:

  • They would give you antifungal medications in case you have vaginal yeast infections. There are ointments, creams, and pills available to treat yeast infections.
  • They would give you antibiotics to treat bacterial vaginosis. You usually need to take pills on a regular basis, but you can also find creams that you have to apply inside your vagina. It is important to complete your course and not stop when you feel better after a few days.
  • They would give you antiparasitics, antivirals or antibiotics to treat STDs. It is important to stay away from sex until your infection clears.
  • They would recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT) if you have vaginal atrophy which refers to the thinning of the lining of your vagina. HRT works by replacing progesterone and estrogen. You can also take vaginal tablets, pessaries, and creams that contain estrogen to treat your symptoms.

Home Remedies

Home remedies may provide extra help for the vaginal itching and swelling. Here are some suggestions:

  • Be sure to keep your genital area clean. You should also keep it dry and change your damp clothing immediately.
  • Do not wear tight clothing and opt for cotton underwear during the day to prevent dampness.
  • Do not use scented soap and just use water to rinse your genital area.
  • Avoid hot baths; you can soak in warm baths though.
  • Stay away from douches because they can kill healthy bacteria.
  • Never apply hygiene powders, fragrances, and sprays near the vagina.
  • Avoid using tampons and stick with pads, especially if you have an infection.
  • Be sure to wipe from front to back and not the other way round when using the toilet.
  • Take steps to control your diabetes and keep your blood sugar normal.
  • Include yogurt with live cultures in your diet to lower your risk of getting yeast infections.
  • Avoid unprotected sex and always use condoms for protection against STDs.
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