Vaginal and anal itching are both irritating and embarrassing problems. But what causes them and are they related? There are several common causes of vaginal and anal itching, most of which are unrelated.
Although it is important to keep the area around your anus and vagina clean, you can overdo things. Too much washing or cleaning with harsh soaps can irritate the sensitive skin, causing itching. If you have sensitive skin, you should avoid using ‘wet wipes’, especially if they are scented and steer clear too of perfumed bubble bath and oils.
Conversely, if you don’t wash enough, accumulations of particles of feces around the anus and discharge around the vagina can encourage bacterial infection, which will cause inflammation and itching.
If you suffer from hemorrhoids (piles) and you use ointment or cream to treat them, you may also suffer from anal itching. In particular, topical products containing lignocaine, tetracaine, cinchocaine, pramocaine or benzocaine can become irritating to your skin if you use them for more than one week.
Some skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema or a condition called lichen sclerosis can all cause vaginal and anal itching. Your doctor or skin specialist should be able to prescribe you a suitable topical cream to tackle the problem.
Fungi love a warm, damp environment, especially if the skin is already damaged. Once a fungal infection takes hold, the itching will become worse and can be difficult to get rid of. Fungal conditions can affect both the vagina and anus.
In the first instance, you should ask your GP for advice. Once the problem has cleared up, try wearing pure cotton underwear to allow your skin to breathe.
STIs are usually what most people worry about when they experience vaginal or anal itching. Although it is possible for an STI to cause the problem, it’s not as common as many people think.
Genital warts (on the vulva or penis) can cause itching around the anus because of the warm, moist conditions in that area. Similarly, genital herpes can also infect the anus and cause itching. Both these viruses can be transmitted on your fingers and are not necessarily as a result of sexual activity, but rather as a result of poor hand hygiene after going to the toilet.
Threadworms are tiny worms that live in the lower bowel. These common worms are responsible for around 40 million cases of anal itching in the USA alone.
The worm eggs are deposited on the skin around the anus, causing intense itching. If you scratch, the eggs transfer to your fingers and thence to your mouth, where they re-infect your gut when you swallow them. Worms don’t cause vaginal itching.
Vaginal itching is often caused by a fungal infection (Candida albicans) inside the vagina, commonly called ‘thrush’. Many women carry thrush without it actually causing any problems, but sometimes a hormonal imbalance can trigger an outbreak of itching. You may also experience a small amount of white discharge in addition to the itching. The discharge should have no aroma and both the symptoms should disappear within a couple of days of treatment with an over the counter remedy.
Thrush does not cause anal itching.
Vulval intraepithelial neoplasia is a condition that generally affects older women. The condition causes localized itching in areas where the skin has become abnormal. Always consult your doctor immediately if you suspect that you may have this condition, especially if a lump or sore develops; it can sometimes be a precursor to skin cancer.
Wearing tight trousers and underwear, especially if it’s made from synthetic fabric can cause both vaginal and anal itching. This is because moisture from these areas becomes trapped, irritating the skin and causing itching. Try wearing pure cotton underwear and opt for looser fitting pants in very warm weather.
Some washing detergents and fabric conditioners can irritate the sensitive skin around the vagina and anus, causing itching. Try changing to hypo-allergenic products to solve the problem.
Vaginal and anal itching can be embarrassing and upsetting, and in some cases, they are related. If you experience prolonged or repeated episodes of itching, always consult your doctor for advice.