Itching of the genitals

Itching of the Genitals: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Itching of the genital area—also known as 'pruritus of the genital area'—is an uncomfortable but very common condition, affecting both sexes. It is often caused by infections or skin irritations, but it can also be a symptom of other conditions that affect the genital area. In this article, we look at the causes of genital itching, the treatments available, and offer helpful tips for preventing and managing it.

Causes of Itching of the Genitals

Itching of the genital area is typically caused by infections, skin disorders, or contact with irritants. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Fungal infection: Fungal infections, such as candidiasis, are common causes of genital itching. These infections can be caused by poor hygiene, tight clothing, or an imbalance of bacteria in the genital area.
  • Pubic lice: Pubic lice, often referred to as crabs, are tiny insects that can live on the genitals and cause itching. These are most often spread through close sexual contact.
  • Sexually transmitted infections: Many sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause genital itching, especially those caused by bacteria and viruses such as gonorrhea, herpes, and trichomoniasis.
  • Contact dermatitis: Contact dermatitis, or allergic reactions to irritants such as chemicals, can cause itching in the genital area. This is also known as irritant dermatitis.
  • Skin conditions: Certain skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema, and scabies, can cause itching of the genital area.
  • Other conditions: Rarely, itching of the genital area can be caused by other conditions such as diabetes, certain types of cancer, or kidney failure.

Symptoms of Itching of the Genitals

The most common symptom of genital itching is an intense, irritating feeling that may be accompanied by an unpleasant odor. Other symptoms can include redness, swelling, pain, and an increase in discharge from the area.

Treatment of Itching of the Genitals

The treatment of itching in the genital area will depend on the underlying cause. Your doctor may recommend a combination of home remedies and medications to provide relief and to treat the underlying condition. These can include:

  • OTC anti-itch creams and lotions: If the itching is caused by contact dermatitis or a fungal infection, over-the-counter (OTC) anti-itch creams and lotions can help provide relief.
  • Prescription-strength creams and lotions: If the over-the-counter medications are not helping to provide relief, your doctor may prescribe a stronger cream or lotion.
  • Antifungal medications: If the itching is caused by a fungal infection, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal cream, pill, or ointment.
  • Antibiotics: If the itching is caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat the condition.
  • Anti-itch medications: If the itching is caused by a skin disorder, your doctor may prescribe an anti-itch medication, such as a corticosteroid.

Preventing and Managing Itching of the Genitals

There are several steps you can take to help prevent and manage itching in the genital area:

  • Keep the area clean: Wash the area regularly with a mild soap and water. Avoid using strong soaps or cleaners that can irritate the sensitive skin in this area.
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes: Wear loose-fitting clothes to allow air to circulate around the genital area. This can help reduce irritation and provide relief.
  • Avoid using harsh soaps/scents: Avoid using soaps or scented products that can irritate the skin and cause itching.
  • Take warm baths: Taking warm baths can help reduce inflammation and provide relief from itching.
  • Avoid scratching: It can be tempting to scratch the area, but this can lead to further irritation and inflammation. If itching is severe, use a cold compress to help reduce the sensation.
  • Eat a healthful diet: Eating a balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help the body to fight infections, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.
  • Practice safe sex: If you are sexually active, use protection to help reduce the risk of STIs, which can cause itching of the genital area.