Why is My Vagina Sensitive?

If you are experiencing pain in the vulva area, it may be due to friction or pressure. It could also be a sign of an infection.

You can prevent irritation by using dermatologist-tested soaps, creams and deodorants around the genital area. Also, use unscented laundry detergent and white toilet paper.

Causes

The vulva and vagina produce a natural amount of thin or watery, non-irritating and odorless discharge. The amount and type of the discharge changes throughout the menstrual cycle. If you have an abnormal discharge or itching, you should talk to your GP about it.

A variety of conditions can cause pain, itching or irritation in the vulva and vagina. These include:

Bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV is an infection caused by bacteria that can affect the skin in and around the vulva. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by a burning sensation or itching, pain during sexual activity, or an unpleasant smell.

Irritation and itchiness can also be caused by:

Lichen sclerosis – a condition that causes thin white patches to develop on the skin, especially in the genital area. It’s more common in postmenopausal women and can cause pain, itching or stinging.

The sensitivity of the vulva and vagina varies between women and can be increased by chemicals, products or clothing that comes into contact with the skin in these areas. It’s a good idea to use dermatologist-tested soaps, shower gels and creams and not use deodorants in this sensitive area – This section is the creation of the website’s experts Sexy Belle. Wash lingerie, underwear and other items that come into contact with the vulva in unscented detergents and avoid scented toilet paper and fabric softeners.

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Symptoms

There’s a wide range of symptoms that can affect your vagina and vulva. The most common are itching, pain or a change in the color, consistency or smell of your vaginal discharge. If you notice these, see your GP.

For example, a yeast infection — also known as thrush — can cause itching in the vulva, a cottage cheese-like discharge and a strong fishy odor. It often happens after sex but can occur at any time, and even during menstruation. This is caused by a yeast called Candida, which also causes infections in the mouth and skin folds. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is another common infection that can be painful and cause a watery white or grey vaginal discharge with a strong fishy odor. It usually occurs in women who are sexually active, but it can also be caused by certain STIs such as trichomoniasis and chlamydia.

Irritation of the vulva and vagina can be triggered by a number of things including, irritants such as harsh soaps, shower gels or perfumed tampons; wearing tight, non-breathable clothes, shaving or waxing; and hormonal changes such as pregnancy or menopause. It can also be caused by irritation from sex or rough play. A local anaesthetic cream or ointment, such as 5% lidocaine, available in pharmacies, may help soothe the area if it is irritated. Physiotherapy to relax the muscles around the vulva and desensitise it can be helpful too.

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Treatment

It’s not always easy to identify the source of vaginal itching and irritation. That’s especially true if you don’t see your doctor right away. That’s why you should try to avoid home remedies that aren’t based on reliable research.

For example, if you wash your vulva aggressively in an attempt to disinfect or remove irritants, it can actually make things worse. This is especially true if you have an infection. Pouring clean, lukewarm water over your vulva after going to the bathroom can help soothe it. And using a lubricant during sexual activity can reduce friction, which causes pain and discomfort.

Certain chemicals and products can irritate the skin of your vulva and vagina, including bubble bath, soaps, shower gel, washing powder, scented toilet paper, some types of menstrual care (pads, panty liners) and condoms. Likewise, long-term use of antibiotics or other drugs can affect the skin of your vulva and raise the risk for infection.

Some women may have a condition called vulvodynia, which causes throbbing and itching in the external genital area. Your doctor can prescribe medication to relieve the pain and itching. In some cases, she might also recommend a topical ointment with lidocaine. This can be purchased at many pharmacies and natural health stores. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label.

Prevention

There are things that people can do to reduce the irritation of their vulva and vagina. This includes not using harsh soaps and not applying scented lotions or sprays to the area. It is important to keep the genital skin dry, especially after having a shower or bath and before wearing tight pants. This will help prevent bacterial infections, such as a yeast infection (candidiasis or ‘thrush’).

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Some conditions can cause itching and irritation in the vulva and vagina. These include psoriasis, which can affect the genital area and causes small patches of red, itchy skin that may scale, as well as lichen sclerosus or lichen planus, both of which are autoimmune disorders that make the skin thin, white and cracked. Other conditions that can cause genital irritation are bartholin gland cysts, which can develop around the vulva and cause itching and pain. Hormonal changes, such as those experienced during pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause or due to hormonal medications can also make the vulva and vagina drier and more sensitive.

Some women develop a rash or itching after sleeping with different partners. This is because the vaginal microbiome (the collection of bacteria) can change with each partner, triggering symptoms, such as bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection called candidiasis. This can be avoided by washing the vulva with a mild soap or body wash after each sexual encounter and wiping from front to back after using the toilet to avoid spreading fecal bacteria.

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