Vulval pruritus is the medical term for vulval itch. Many women automatically assume if they itch in that area then it must be down to a thrush infection, but not everything that itches is thrush.
There are many other causes of vulval itch. These are:
• Various medical conditions such as vulval dermatitis (eczema), lichen sclerosus, lichen planus or diabetes.
• Pregnancy and breastfeeding – There is increased blood flow during pregnancy which may result in itching. After the birth, low estrogen levels due to breastfeeding can also cause vulval itching and dry skin.
• Menopause – Reaching this time of life has the same effect as breastfeeding -- low estrogen levels. Advancing age also means that your skin is thinner than it used to be and this can make you more prone to itching and infections.
• Medication side-effects – Certain medicines can make you itch, including thyroid medicines, medicines for liver or kidney diseases and medicines for blood disorders. Topical steroids if used long-term can thin your vulval skin and make you more likely to itch.
• Allergies – You may be allergic to the detergent you wash your clothes in, the soap you wash with, cleansing wipes, sanitary products or condoms.
• Infections – There are many infections in addition to thrush, including STIs, threadworms or pinworms, scabies or bacterial vaginosis.
• Vulval Pain Disorders – There is disagreement within the medical profession over whether vulval pain disorders like vulvodynia cause itching. Some professionals say they can cause itching and others say they can’t. Many women with vulval pain disorders do report that they suffer from itching.
• Pre-cancer or cancer of the vulva – This is a rare cause of vulval itching, but having vulval itch may be a sign of cancer.
Sometimes the cause of vulval itch is never known.
If you are itching and don’t know why, the first thing you should do is go to the doctor as it may be an infection that requires treatment.The doctor will examine you to look at the condition of your vulval skin and may also take swabs from it and from your vagina to identify whether there is an infection.