There can be multiple reasons for an itchy vagina, but for menopausal women the primary cause is vaginal dryness. It's difficult to feel confident and focused during your daily life if you're distracted by genital itchiness and discomfort. Dryness occurs when the vagina isn't lubricated properly and the resultant itching can make daily life uncomfortable. Treating vaginal itchiness is simple once you've identified the cause; keep reading to understand how hormones cause vaginal itching during menopause and discover which other factors may trigger or exacerbate the itchiness.
During perimenopause, the body reduces its production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone - among others - in preparation for menopause. This causes the vaginal tissues to become thin, lose elasticity, and produce less moisture. This combination of effects can result in a sensation of dryness in the vagina, which often brings with it itchiness, mild pain, and sometimes spots of bleeding. While changes in hormone levels are the primary cause of itchiness during menopause, certain habits and environments can intensify vaginal dryness.
Underwear that's clingy, such as thongs or G-strings, or made from synthetic materials, like lace or silk cause yeast and bacterial infections. They restrict air flow to the vagina, causing itchy yeast infections. Wearing comfortably-fitting underwear in breathable fabrics, like cotton, makes itchiness less likely.
Fragranced soaps, body washes, and shower gels might be acceptable to use on most body parts, but the pH of the vagina is sensitively balanced, so harsh washing products are likely to upset the pH and trigger or exacerbate itchiness.
Douching is an internal vaginal cleaning process that is favored by many women after menstruation and sexual intercourse. Like harsh soaps, douching upsets the pH of the vagina and disrupts its natural cleaning functions, making dryness and itchiness more likely. The vagina is adapted to deal with natural processes, like menstruation and sex, so vaginal douching is unnecessary; using lukewarm water is sufficient for intimate washing.
Sjögren's (SHOW-griens) syndrome is a disease that affects the glands that make moisture. Most people with Sjögren's syndrome are women. It can occur at any age and in any race. But it most often shows up after age 40. In Sjögren's syndrome, your immune system attacks the glands that make tears and saliva. The damage keeps these glands from working right and causes dry eyes, mouth, and vagina.
Using biological detergents to wash your underwear is likely to exacerbate vaginal dryness and cause resultant itchiness when your wear them. Non-biological, non-fragranced detergents are a more hygienic choice.
Medicines or synthetic hormones used in the treatment of breast cancer, endometriosis, fibroids, or infertility may cause vaginal dryness. Certain medicines, such as allergy treatments or antidepressants, can also dry the vagina and vaginal tissues.
Swimming pools and Jacuzzis contain chlorine and other chemicals that can dry out the vagina and cause subsequent itchiness. These are best avoided during phases of vaginal dryness so as not to worsen the symptom.
More Information about Vaginal Dryness
To avoid vaginal itching and dryness, it is important to check soap and avoid allergens. While hormone replacement therapies and prescribed vaginal creams are available to treat dryness, these are usually unnecessary; avoiding triggers and using natural moisturizers and lubricants to relieve discomfort is usually the quickest and most effective cure.
- Better Health Channel. (2013). Hysterectomy. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Hysterectomy?open
- National Health Service UK. (2012). Sex after the menopause. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/women4060/Pages/sex-after-the-menopause.aspx
- National Institutes of Health. (2011). Vaginal dryness: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000892.htm