Eliminate That Embarrassing Itch

Eliminate That Embarrassing Itch

Some itches are just too embarrassing to scratch. But if you've ever been, or currently are, bothered by an irritating itch "down there," you know how urgent the need to scratch can be.

Quite often, the culprit is fungus. Wherever moisture and heat get trapped on the body, fungus can grow and cause uncomfortable itching. One of the most common types of intimate fungal infections in women is a yeast infection.

What's Going On Down There?
The human body is home to many different microorganisms, including fungi. A certain number of fungi living on the human body is normal. But when conditions favor fungi growth, such as warmth and moisture, these organisms can multiply rapidly, upsetting the healthy balance.

It is quite typical for fungal infections to occur in the genital area, where ideal growing conditions exist. However, fungal infections also can be found on the feet, underarms, or the fold of skin below the breast.

Yeast Infection
Vaginal itching that is accompanied by a white, curdlike discharge is most likely due to a yeast infection, caused by an overpopulation of the fungus Candida albicans. Statistics show that three-fourths of all women will have a yeast infection sometime in their lives, and many will have recurring infections.

If your immune system is compromised by stress, poor diet, lack of sleep, or illness, you may be more susceptible to yeast infections. Also, if you are pregnant or you are taking antibiotics, you may be more likely to get an infection. Certain health conditions, such as diabetes, also raise the risk of yeast infections.

A yeast infection is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, although in rare cases it is possible for a partner to experience redness and itching after sexual contact with a woman who has a yeast infection. If this happens, both partners may need to be treated with antifungal medication.

Preventive Measures
To prevent yeast infections, which is especially important if you are prone to them, follow these four steps:

  1. Don't use perfumed bath products or powders in the vaginal area; these can irritate sensitive tissues and make them more susceptible to infection.
  2. Wipe from front to back to prevent yeast that normally inhabits the intestinal tract from being transferred to the vaginal area.
  3. Limit antibiotic use.Take antibiotics only when prescribed by a doctor, and don't take them for longer than prescribed by your doctor. There is some evidence that eating yogurt that contains live cultures may help prevent a yeast infection from occurring when using antibiotics.
  4. Treat fungal infections promptly, before they have an opportunity to spread to other areas.

Other Causes of Uncomfortable Itching
Although they are common, fungal infections aren't the only possible cause of pelvic itching. Your skin could be irritated by sweat and tight clothing, or you could be having an allergic reaction to soaps, detergents or spermicides. The itching could also be related to menopause, be the result of a skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis, or even be a symptom of a sexually transmitted disease such as chlamydia or genital herpes.

If you recognize your symptoms as a yeast infection because you have had one in the past, over-the-counter antifungal medications with which you can treat yourself at home are available. However, the first time you experience symptoms, or if you suspect it may be something else, consult your doctor before beginning any treatment in order to receive a proper diagnosis and rule out other possible causes. Once diagnosed, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medication or prescribe medication.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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