Vagina: common irritants and how to deal with them

We all know that the vagina is one of the most vital, as well as sensitive parts of a woman’s body. Vaginas are so important – a baby comes out of there. But that is not the most astounding fact about them! Did you know that the vagina is a self-cleansing organ? A healthy vagina is acidic in nature and naturally cleans itself as it contains rich quantities of beneficial bacteria. We really do not need to use all those “specially meant for vagina” products available today to keep it clean and hygienic. In fact any interference often causes imbalance in the normal condition(s), which can lead to irritation or infection in our vagina. Although these are not harmful in the long run they can be difficult to deal with. 

The itchy feeling in our vagina is quite uncomfortable and sometimes even painful. It can occur due to many reasons such as menstruation, presence of excess pubic hair, sweat and sexual contact. Certain weather conditions may also aggravate the condition. To start with it is important to know the possible causes for this disturbance. Here’s a list of some causes – 

  • Vaginal Yeast Infection – Also known as candidiasis, this condition is quite common in women, caused by a fungus named Candida. Common symptoms for this infection include intense itching, irritation and swelling. According to Mayo Clinic, at least 3 out of 4 women at some point in their lives have experienced it. And once you have had it the more prone you are to getting a recurrence. 

  • Vulvovaginitis – It is a common condition in which one experiences an inflammation or infection of the vulva and vagina which results in itching and discomfort whilst urinating and increased vaginal discharge. It has a variety of causes like yeast, viruses, parasites, STDs, chemical irritants, et cetera and can affect women of any age. 

  • Postmenopausal Atrophic Vaginitis – Also called Vaginal Atrophy, it is a condition where post-menopause, due to decreased estrogen levels, a woman’s vaginal walls start thinning. This opens your body to a greater risk of getting chronic vaginal infection and urinary function problems. Also, sexual intercourse can be lot more painful. In a study by American Association of Family Physicians it was reported that up to 40 percent post-menopausal women have atrophic vaginitis. Common symptoms are tightening of vaginal canal, vaginal burning, spotting of blood after intercourse, pain or burning sensation during urination, etc.

  • Sexually Transmitted Disease – Sexually transmitted disease or infection like Chlamydia, trichomoniasis, genital herpes, genital warts and gonorrhea can also cause irritation in vagina. Some common symptoms are vaginal discharge which can be white, grey, yellow or green; spotting or bleeding; itching sensation with redness and swelling in genital region; sores; pain during sex and; frequent urge to urinate.

  • Bacterial Vaginosis – We already know that our vagina contains rich quantities of beneficial bacteria called lactobacilli which help in cleansing; however when these are low in number, it can trigger some wrong bacteria that may grow in there and lead to infection. Common symptoms are inflammation, discharge with fishy-smelling odor and burning sensation.

  • Chemical Irritants – Some chemical substances such as creams, condoms, contraceptive foams, scented soaps and detergents, douches can also disturb the pH level of vagina resulting in irritation of vulva or vagina.

  • Lichen Sclerosis – In a very rare condition, thin white patches can form on the skin especially around the vulva that can permanently scar the vaginal area. This condition is most likely to be developed in post-menopausal women.

Often vaginal irritation gets better on its own, but if it doesn’t or comes back after treatment, we advise you to consult your doctor immediately. With some basic care and hygiene you can maintain the health of your vagina. Here are some tips on how to do this -

  1. While you’re in a public loo, wipe front to back and not back to front, as there may be chances of bacteria from the anus getting inside your vagina.

  2. Do not douche. It imbalances your vaginal pH level.

  3. Do not use scented soaps or cleansers as they too disturb your normal vaginal condition.

  4. Always use condoms while having sex as they protect you from getting STDs. Also, do change condoms if you’re switching between vaginal and anal sex.

  5. Keep hydrated at all times and have a balanced diet of nutritious food, including proteins and fats along with vegetables and fruits. Probiotics & fermented foods also contribute to maintenance of healthy bacteria in the body.

  6. Do not wear super tight underwear. It is advised to wear cotton underwear. 

  7. Do not keep your vaginal region wet. Wipe after you visit the loo always.

  8. Change your pad or tampons regularly as they can become a feeding ground for bacteria.

About the Author

WHL Staff

The WHL staff comprises a group of ladies out to give you exhaustive, practical health tips and resources.