Itching in the genital area is a common symptom of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, itching doesn’t necessarily indicate that you have an STI.
Itching can also be a sign of medical conditions like jock itch, scabies and genital warts. Itching can even be a symptom of HIV, if left untreated it could lead to severe health problems including AIDS.
Vaginal itching is not uncommon and can happen for a variety of reasons. Itching can be a sign of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or an infection like genital herpes, but it can also be caused by things like a change in lubricant, douching, or detergent or fabric softener used during laundry. Itching can also be a side effect of some medications and can even be the result of an irritation like razor burn or an ingrown hair.
If you have genital itching and think it might be an STD, make an appointment with your healthcare professional. They will ask you about your genital itching and what symptoms you’ve been experiencing, as well as your sexual history. They may also use a pelvic exam to see inside your vulva or may need to collect a sample of your discharge for analysis.
The most common cause of vaginal itching is a yeast infection, also called thrush. This is when the natural balance of yeast and bacteria in your vulva becomes imbalanced, which leads to an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans. Yeast infections are more common in women, and they can happen for many different reasons, including pregnancy or as a side effect of some medicines. Other common causes of genital itching include herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis.
Anal itching is an uncontrollable urge to scratch the area around your anus. This area is very sensitive, and scratching can cause extreme discomfort and irritation. Scratching can also break down the oily skin barrier that protects this area, which increases your risk for infection. Anal itching is more common in males than in females, and can be triggered by many things. It may be caused by a parasitic infection such as jock itch or yeast infections (both of which affect the genital area), or by a medical condition such as hemorrhoids, piles, or anal tumors. Other causes include a diet that includes itchy foods, such as chili peppers, and some medications, including chemotherapy, antacids, and neomycin (Mycitracin).
If you experience anal itching that does not go away after using good hygiene, you should see your doctor. Your doctor will ask questions and do a physical exam to determine the cause of your itching. He or she will also check to see if you have symptoms of STDs, such as pain during bowel movements or discharge from the anus.
Some over-the-counter ointments can relieve anal itching. However, you should always use protection during sexual activity, avoid irritants such as perfumed toilet paper, and use talcum powder or medicated suppositories only on the anal area. If you have other symptoms of STDs, such as blood in the stool or rectal problems, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are bacterial, viral or parasitic diseases that are passed from person to person through genital contact. STIs invade normal cells and overburden the immune system, creating typical symptoms of infection such as itching around the vulva or anus, discharge from the vagina or penis, and pain when urinating. Some STIs are curable, while others can lead to lifelong health problems, including infertility, scarring, chronic pain, ectopic pregnancy or even cancer.
Some STIs, like HIV, have no cure, and others, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, are curable with antibiotics. Untreated STIs can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, cancer, arthritis and even ectopic pregnancy leading to fetal or maternal death. Pregnant women infected with STIs may also pass the infections to their babies, resulting in congenital syphilis and herpes.
Most STIs are spread through vaginal, oral or anal sex but can also be spread through open-mouth kissing, using injected drugs and pregnancy. While anyone can get an STI, teenagers and young adults are at the highest risk. You can get an STI by sharing infected blood with someone who has the same infection. You can also get STIs from sharing sores or discharge on the skin, such as from genital warts. You can get an STI by sharing dirty or infected towels, clothes, combs, toothbrushes and bath water.
The itching of the genital or anal area occurs due to complex interactions between the skin and nerves . Itching triggers an inflammatory response, which causes chemicals like histamines to be released at the site of irritation. These chemicals cause redness, swelling, and itching. When this happens, the body’s natural reflex is to scratch the irritated area. However, excessive scratching can break the skin and lead to further inflammation and itching.
Yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis are common causes of vaginal itching. Both are triggered by changes or imbalances in the normal bacteria and pH balance of the vulva. Having sex with multiple partners can expose the vulva to new microorganisms that disturb this balance and cause itching. Additionally, lubricants, condoms, and spermicides used during sex can also trigger itching.
Gonorrhea and chlamydia are both bacterial STDs that can cause itchiness in and around the anus and vulva. These infections can also trigger painful intercourse, spotting during or after sex, discharge from the penis or vagina, and pain or a burning sensation at the anal opening.
Sexually transmitted diseases can also cause jock itch, which is a fungal infection that mainly affects the groin and penis. Treatment options include antifungal creams and suppositories. Suppositories are inserted into the vulva with an applicator and can be prescribed or over-the-counter.