Treating recurring vaginal itching


July 19, 2016

Dear Readers,

A.C., 30, from St Catherine, has been having itching and burning in her private parts (Vulvo-vagina) for the past year. It is worse after her menses.

She visited a doctor for a check-up and was given a prescription for womb inserts. It worked for a while. She doesn't feel any itching when she is seeing her period. However, after the period stops, the itching comes back.

There are several itching vaginal infections that can recur even after proper treatment. Living in the tropics means that we are constantly exposed to heat, sweat, and moisture, all of which promote the growth and survival of even the vaginal infections that are not necessarily linked to sexual activity such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.

Trichomonas and Herpes Simplex genital infections are sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can cause severe vaginal and vulvar itching. These infections are usually treated with a combination of oral pills and topical inserts or creams. Chlamydia and gonorrheal infections (STIs) can also cause some vaginal discomfort and have to be treated with oral medication. Vaginal inserts won't work.

There are several factors that may contribute to a recurring vaginal infection. Some of these are:

• Incomplete treatment from the outset. With such marked itching, it is possible that vaginal inserts alone, without oral medication, were just not good enough to eradicate the organisms treated.

• Lack of treatment of an infected sexual partner can result in recurring reinfections (ping-pong effect). Sometimes BOTH partners need to be treated at the same time.

• Yeast and bacterial vaginosis are curable infections, but cure can be difficult to achieve in some individuals. Athletes, women who jog a lot, women who work in very warm environments, women who persistently wear tights, overweight women whose legs rub when walking, women with heavy periods and/or more frequent than the norm (once monthly) will tend to experience these infections more frequently as heat and blood favour the growth of the organisms.

At times, the physician will set up a schedule of both immediate and longer-term treatment, usually used just before menstruation over several months, to weaken the organism and make successful treatment more likely.

• Herpes Simplex genitalia tends to recur at various time intervals and especially at times of stress. In some persons, the body perceives menstruation to be stressful and the disease manifests itself near or during the periods. Oral medication and topical applications can be prescribed to control and reduce the number of outbreaks experienced, but this infection is not curable.

• Chemicals found in detergents, fabric softeners, douches, and feminine sprays may irritate the vulvar and vaginal areas, resulting in itching and discharge.

• The birth control Pill (oral contraceptive) is a hormone, and any hormone can make yeast infections more difficult to treat.

• Another, less frequent cause of genital itching is Lichen Planus, a skin disorder, which is also associated with itching.

• Diabetes. Vulvar and vaginal itching is commonly seen in diabetes when the blood sugar is not well controlled.

To feel more comfortable and lessen the episodes of recurrence:

• Avoid using soap on the genital region when itching is occurring. Soap will further irritate the area and worsen the condition.

• A warm water wash may help lessen the symptoms of some vaginal infections.

• The irritation of yeast (fungal) infection is lessened by placing the genitalia in cold water.

• Avoid douching. It can worsen the situation by removing healthy bacteria, which protect against infection from the vagina.

• Avoid using feminine-hygiene sprays.

• Use pads, not tampons, during an infection.

• Wearing cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes keeps the genital area cooler and lessens moisture build-up.

• When home, avoid wearing underwear.

• Wipe properly - always from front to back - after using the toilet.

• Always use condoms when sexually active to avoid catching infections.

Treatment will depend on the cause of the itching and discharge, which cannot be determined without visual examination.

Check Up suggests that A.C. visit a gynaecologist either privately or at the Spanish Town Hospital Gynaecology Clinic to obtain another check-up. Proper examination, investigation with a Pap smear, and vaginal swabs sent for culture to determine the infecting organism should be done, as well as treatment given to help restore genital and emotional health.

Check Up hopes that our tips will help make A.C. more comfortable until she makes her visit.

Write to:

Check Up,

PO Box 1731,




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