Irritation of the vulva, or vaginal canal, is quite common. It can be caused by many things, including a yeast infection, sexually transmitted infections and using the wrong types of pads or tampons.

The good news is that most of the causes of itching in the vulva are treatable and preventable. Here are some of them:

Too-tight pants or pantyhose

Skinny jeans and jeggings are a closet staple for many women, but these tight clothes may cause pain in the vagina. They limit airflow to the vulva, which increases temperature and moisture. This can promote the growth of yeast and bacteria, causing a condition called vulvodynia.

This condition causes pain, itching, and tingling in the vulva area. It can be caused by tight clothing, perfumed soaps or creams, scented toilet paper, menstrual pads and tampons, bubble baths, and chlorine in swimming pools and hot tubs.

To prevent vulvodynia, wear loose cotton underwear and change it frequently. Also, avoid synthetic or tight pants or pantyhose and soak in a warm or cold sitz bath to reduce itching and irritation. If you experience persistent discomfort, talk to your doctor about changing your clothing and using a topical anesthetic before intimate activities.

Swimming in a chlorinated pool or hot tub

Chlorine can irritate the skin of the vulva, or external area of the vagina. This can cause itching or burning and may make the vagina swollen. It also may disrupt the vagina’s pH balance, causing an infection called bacterial vaginosis. This condition is itchy and painful and usually accompanied by smelly discharge.

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Other things that can irritate the vulva are pads, pantyliners and tampons that aren’t 100% cotton; synthetic bathing suits; riding a bike or horseback; laundry detergents; scented soaps; and G-strings and pantyhose. Yeast infections and other infections can make the vulva itch, as well.

If you have itching and burning in the vulva, talk to your doctor. There are tests that can show what’s causing these symptoms. You might have a magnetic resonance imaging test, computerized tomography scan or laparoscopy.

Having a urinary tract infection (UTI)

A healthy vulva has different types of bacteria that keep each other in balance and create a moist, healthy environment. But if these bacteria get out of balance, they can cause an infection called bacterial vaginosis.

UTIs occur when bacteria from the genital area or anus travel up through the urine tube (the urethra) and into the bladder. They’re most common in women because their urethras are closer to the vagina than men’s, and they lose the protection estrogen provides against infections.

To prevent getting a UTI, wear cotton underwear instead of nylon, wipe from front to back rather than up and down, use non-scented feminine hygiene products and showers rather than tub baths, avoid perfumed soaps and sprays around the vulva, urinate shortly after sexual activity, and drink plenty of fluids to help flush out bacteria. A health care provider may also swab the vulva lining to check for an infection.

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Having a yeast infection

Many women have yeast infections, which can make the vulva and vagina feel raw. These are caused by an overgrowth of the candida fungus in the vulva and the vagina. Up to three out of four women will get one at some point during their lives, and many have had them more than once. Yeast infections can also occur in other moist areas of the body, including the mouth (thrush) and skin folds.

To diagnose a yeast infection, your health care provider will take a urine sample and swab the area. Then she will prescribe a medication that kills the fungus or prevents it from growing. Medications can come in pill form, as a cream or a suppository that you put in your vagina.

Having a bacterial infection

The vulva, or female genitals, is delicate. The membranes lining the vulva are easily irritated by many things, and serious complications can occur if they’re scratched.

The most common bacterial infections of the vulva are yeast (candida) and bacterial vaginitis, also known as BV. These infections occur when there are changes in the normal chemical balance of your vulva, such as a reaction to irritating products or overgrowth of microorganisms.

These infections may be caused by having sex without a condom, which can change the natural bacterial makeup of your vulva. They may also be caused by sexually transmitted infections, such as trichomoniasis, chlamydia and herpes, which spread person-to-person through vaginal, anal or oral sex. Infections can also be caused by parasites, such as worms and ticks.

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Having a fungal infection

If you have signs of irritation or discomfort in your vulva, talk to a doctor. She can diagnose the problem and provide the right treatment for you.

Yeast infections (also called vaginitis) are caused by an overgrowth of the yeast Candida in the vagina. This can cause discharge and itching. Yeast infections are common, especially in postmenopausal women. Other causes include reduced estrogen levels and some skin disorders.

Fungus infections often happen because the normal balances that keep them in check are upset. For example, antibiotics can kill the bacteria that normally live in your mouth, throat and digestive tract and allow the fungus to overgrow.

Fungus infections can also occur on the skin, nails and mucous membranes. Symptoms include itching and redness. Yeast infections usually don’t affect the blood but can lead to a serious infection that affects your brain, eyes, heart and lungs called candidiasis or invasive candidiasis.

Having a parasite infection

Irritation of the vulva, or genitals, can be caused by many things. Seeing your doctor right away can help you find the cause and get the treatment you need. It also helps keep your infection from spreading and can help prevent complications such as infertility.

The vulva is naturally full of different types of bacteria that keep each other in balance to create a healthy environment. When too much of the wrong kind of bacteria take over they can cause a type of vaginitis called bacterial vaginosis (BV). This usually causes a grayish-white, foul-smelling discharge.

Other infections that can cause a vulva irritation include yeast infections (which may have a thick, cottage cheese-like discharge) and an STD like chlamydia, which is spread through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex.