Causes of Vaginal Itching With No Discharge

And when you should see a healthcare provider

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Vaginal itching is a signal that something is amiss in the vagina. Accompanying abnormal discharge is always cause for concern, but it doesn't always occur with vaginal itching. That can make it hard to know whether your case warrants a trip to your healthcare provider or not.

Knowing the causes of vaginal itch without abnormal discharge, and their associated symptoms, can help. This article explains them, when to see a doctor, and how vaginal itching is treated. It also discusses prevention strategies to keep you itch-free.

common causes of vaginal itching and burning

Verywell / Emily Roberts

Causes of Vaginal Itching

Several things can cause vaginal itching without discharge. Some of them require medical treatment, while others are minor and can be treated at home.

Causes of vaginal itching without discharge include:

Vagina or Vulva?

While many people use vagina as a term for the entire female genitalia, the vagina is just the internal part. The external genitalia is called the vulva, and it contains the mons pubis, labia majora and minora, clitoris, and openings of the urethra and vagina. So much of what's called vaginal itch is technically vulvar itch.

Sweating

Everyone sweats in their genital region from time to time. The sweat glands there are the same type as in your armpit (apocrine glands). They produce a thicker sweat than glands elsewhere in your body (eccrine glands).

When a protein from that sweat interacts with bacteria on your skin, it can cause an unpleasant odor. As sweat dries, it can also make your groin and vulva itchy.

Prevention

If sweating causes your itch, it should go away when you bathe or shower.

You can also take steps to prevent it:

  • Wear breathable materials, like cotton.
  • Wear moisture-wicking underwear designed when you exercise.
  • Shower and put on clean clothes as soon as you can after sweating.
  • Keep at least some pubic hair, as it carries moisture away from the skin.
  • Maintain a weight that is healthy for you.
  • Avoid using pads or pantyliners, or change them frequently.

Any scented product can irritate the sensitive tissues of your vulva and make itching worse. Avoid or limit how often you use these kinds of products, including:

If you do use a product that eliminates or prevents sweating and odor, choose one that is unscented.

Razor Burn

Shaving hair in your pubic area can cause razor burn, just like shaving hair elsewhere on your body can. You may notice that the skin is swollen and red with itchy bumps that are sensitive when touched.

Razor burn happens when the razor removes the top layer of skin and allows bacteria to invade.

Prevention

You can prevent razor burn by using a razor that's clean and sharp. In addition, more blades are better than fewer.

Other tips for preventing razor burn include:

  • Moisturize the skin before and after shaving.
  • Take a hot shower or put a warm washcloth on the area before shaving.
  • Use a shaving cream or gel so the razor can glide smoothly over your skin.
  • Only shave in the direction of hair growth.
  • Store your razor in a dry area to prevent bacteria growth.

When you have razor burn, try to avoid irritating the skin. If the itch is intense, you may find relief from:

  • Applying a cool or warm compress
  • Taking a warm bath, possibly with oatmeal for extra soothing benefits
  • Wearing loose-fitting, breathable fabrics like cotton
  • Using aloe vera gel (external skin only)

Eczema

Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition that causes redness and itching. Female genital eczema is an umbrella term for several types of itchy conditions that can affect your vulva or the skin between the cheeks of your buttocks.

Types of eczema that can lead to vaginal itching include:

  • Atopic eczema: This is caused by a dysfunctional immune system. Symptoms include dry, itchy skin and rashes. The rashes may appear red on light skin and purple, brown, or gray on darker skin.
  • Seborrhoreic dermatitis: This chronic form of eczema can clear up and flare, over and over, for years. It may be caused by an abnormal reaction to a type of yeast that lives on your skin.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis: A day or two after exposure to an allergen, the skin can experience an inflammatory reaction that causes an itchy rash. Common triggers include poison ivy, nickel, and fragrances.
  • Irritant contact eczema: Irritating substances such as solvents, soaps, wool, or some ingredients in beauty products may damage skin cells and trigger an immune system reaction. That may lead to itching, burning, or blistering that can be severe enough to disrupt sleep or concentration.

Prevention and Treatment

For those types of eczema that are triggered by exposures, it's important to avoid those substances that are causing you problems.

Some of the things that can help prevent eczema flares in general, like regularly applying moisturizer to affected skin, may not be suitable for the genital area. However, drinking lots of water, trying not to scratch the area (or at least being gentle when you do so), and showering in lukewarm (not hot) water can help.

Topical corticosteroids are a standard treatment for many types of eczema, even when the vulva is affected. If you see your doctor and they prescribe one for you, it's important that you closely follow instructions for use to ensure safety.

A healthy lifestyle, including plenty of sleep and keeping stress low, can help alleviate symptoms of eczema, too.

Pubic Lice

Pubic lice, also known as "crabs," is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that may cause vaginal itching. These tiny parasitic insects live in pubic hair and, less commonly, other body hair (like the chest, beard, and eyebrows) and live off of your blood.

It's most common to get them by your pubic hair directly touching the pubic hair of someone who has them. It's rare but possible to pick pubic lice up from bedding or clothing that you have shared with an infected person.

Pubic lice generally live on the mons pubis, the fleshy area at the top of the vulva where most of your pubic hair is. Other than itching, you might not experience any other physical symptoms.

Visible signs of public lice include:

  • Tan or grayish lice on your pubic hair or skin
  • Yellow or white eggs (nits) attached to the hair

While you need to get rid of lice for hygiene and comfort purposes, they aren't otherwise harmful.

Prevention and Treatment

The only way to prevent pubic lice is by not having sex or another type of close contact with anyone who has them.

If you are infected, you can get rid of pubic lice with:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription products, including lotions, shampoos, gels, mousses, and oral medications
  • A fine-toothed comb to remove eggs from your pubic hair (you can use just your fingernails for this in your case is mild)

In addition, you should wash and dry anything that the lice may have come into contact with, including:

  • Clothes
  • Bedding
  • Towels

While it may seem like shaving your pubic hair would be a good way to get rid of these parasites, it only gets rid of the eggs. Unfortunately, the lice will crawl to the first body hair they can find.

So, if you want to shave to ensure all the nits are gone, experts recommend waiting until after treatments have killed all the lice.

You may have itching for a while after the lice are gone. Try to avoid scratching, as you could damage your skin and develop an infection.

If you notice redness or swelling in places where you've scratched, that could be a sign of infection. Be sure to see your healthcare provider for that.

Any time you find out you have a sexually transmitted infection, you should contact all recent sexual partners to inform them and refrain from sex until you've received treatment.

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes, another STI, is a common cause of genital itching. It's most often caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), but the virus that causes oral herpes, HSV type 1 (HSV-1), can also cause it.

Around 12% of Americans between ages 14 and 49 test positive for HSV-2. Herpes is incurable. 

Many cases of genital herpes are symptom-free or have mild, infrequent symptoms.

When they do occur during an outbreak, they include small, painful sores or blisters on the genitals or anus. Sores can appear on the vulva, perineum (space between the vaginal and anal openings), vagina, and cervix (which connects the vagina to the uterus).

Other possible symptoms you may experience during an outbreak include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen glands in your throat, underarms, and pelvic areas

Prevention and Treatment

You can get genital herpes by having unprotected genital, anal, or oral contact with someone who has it. A condom and other barriers can provide significant—but not total—protection.

People can manage herpes with antiviral medications, which also can help prevent it from spreading. Symptoms can be eased with over-the-counter pain medications and cool compresses applied to the sores.

Lichen Sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus is a chronic skin condition that makes the skin thin, pale, and wrinkly. It usually affects the genitalia and anus, but it can also affect the chest and arms. It's most common in women over age 50 and pre-pubescent girls.

The cause isn't known, but it may be an autoimmune disease. In addition, it may be related to hormonal imbalance, especially involving estrogen.

It doesn't always cause symptoms, but can cause:

  • Intense vulvar itching
  • Anal itching, pain, or bleeding, especially during bowel movements
  • Pain during vaginal penetration
  • Difficulty urinating or pain with urination
  • Blisters
  • Easy bruising, tearing, and bleeding
  • Sores in a "figure 8" pattern around the vulva and anus

Lichen sclerosis usually comes and goes. It can cause permanent scars, and it usually gets worse over time if you don't treat it appropriately.

Treatment

Lichen sclerosis can't be cured, so treatment focuses on managing symptoms.

Standard treatment includes:

  • Steroid ointment to reduce inflammation, itching, and pain
  • Steroid injections
  • Low-dose tricyclic antidepressants to decrease pain
  • Medications including Soriatane (acitretin) or Protopic (tacrolimus)
  • Ultraviolet light treatment

Recap

Many things can cause vaginal or genital itching, including sweat, razor burn, skin conditions like eczema and lichen sclerosis, herpes, and pubic lice. Some of these require medical treatment.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you have vaginal or vulvar itching without abnormal discharge, and it lasts more than a few days, you should see your healthcare provider.

What sometimes appears to be a minor problem, like razor burn, may be something more serious, such as genital herpes. In addition, using the wrong treatment may further irritate your skin, lead to even more discomfort, and allow a condition to worsen.

If abnormal discharge or pelvic pain accompanies your itching, see your healthcare provider right away.

Itching that won't go away can impact your quality of life. In addition, different causes of itchiness can require different treatments.

General treatments for an irritating itch include:

  • Cold compresses or ice packs for five to 10 minutes at a time
  • An oatmeal bath
  • Moisturizer, especially if it's additive- and fragrance-free
  • Topical anesthetics containing pramoxine
  • Topical treatments containing menthol or calamine

And as hard as it is, try not to scratch.

Treatment

Itching that won't go away can impact your quality of life. In addition, different causes of itchiness can require different treatments.

General treatments for an irritating itch include:

  • Cold compresses or ice packs for 5-10 minutes at a time
  • An oatmeal bath
  • Moisturizer, especially if it's additive- and fragrance-free
  • Topical anesthetics containing pramoxine
  • Topical treatments containing menthol or calamine

And as hard as it is, try not to scratch.

Prevention

Preventing vaginal and vulvar itching involves keeping your skin and vagina healthy.

Skincare

Good skincare can help prevent a lot of itching, especially itching that is due to dry skin.

Dermatologists recommend that you:

  • Take short baths or showers (10 minutes) in lukewarm water.
  • Use fragrance-free skincare products.
  • Wear loose clothing made from breathable fabrics.
  • Keep your house relatively cool and, if you're prone to dry skin and eczema, use a humidifier in the winter.

Vaginal Health

Good genital health can also help prevent itching and other problems. Your vagina is healthiest when it has the right balance of bacteria, called vaginal flora.

When you have the right amount of good bacteria, it keeps the environment slightly acidic. This acidity keeps the harmful bacteria from getting out of control.

A lot of things can disrupt that balance, including:

  • Antibiotics
  • Vaginal lubricants
  • Feminine hygiene sprays and deodorants
  • Soaps and detergents
  • Fragrances
  • Dyes in clothing
  • Douching
  • Birth control devices
  • Pregnancy
  • Restrictive clothing

You can take steps to maintain good vaginal and vulvar health, such as:

  • Wash the area with water only or gentle soap (harsh soaps can upset the pH balance).
  • Don't use soap around the vaginal or urethral opening.
  • Clean between the labia majora and labia minora (inner and outer lips).
  • Try to keep the area as cool and dry as possible.
  • Use cotton underwear.
  • Don't stay in wet swimsuits or sweaty workout clothing any longer than necessary.
  • Use small amounts of gentle laundry detergent and double-rinse your underwear.
  • Use pads and pantyliners only during your period.
  • Change tampons frequently.
  • After bowel movements, wipe front to back.
  • Shower daily.
  • Don't use anything fragranced around your vulva or vagina.
  • Consider using vaginal lubricants to reduce friction during penetrative sex.
  • Use condoms during penetrative sex.
  • Change condoms when changing the area of penetration (switching between oral, vaginal, or anal).

Summary

Many things can cause vaginal itching without discharge, including sweat, razor burn, some STDs, and skin conditions like eczema and lichen sclerosis.

At-home strategies such as oatmeal baths, anti-itch cream, and cool compresses can help calm itching, but you should see a doctor if your symptoms don't go away in a few days. Treatment may be necessary.

A Word From Verywell

Vaginal, vulvar, and anal itching are topics you might be uncomfortable bringing up with your healthcare provider. Given the seriousness of some conditions that can cause itching, though, it's important that you bring them up.

Remember that your healthcare provider is there to help you, but they can only do that when they know exactly what's going on.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I stop itching down there?

    Genital itching can be relieved by applying a cold compress for five to 10 minutes, using a fragrance-free lotion or lubricant, or applying topical anesthetics or treatments.

  • When should I see a healthcare provider for vaginal itching?

    Call your healthcare provider if your vaginal area itches for more than a few days is highly uncomfortable, or is accompanied by abnormal discharge or pelvic pain. 

  • Is vaginal itching a sign of a yeast infection?

    Yes, an itchy vagina and vulva can indicate a yeast infection. Other signs include a clumpy white discharge and soreness. Yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter remedies. 

Was this page helpful?
15 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Hair removal: How to shave

  2. National Eczema Association. An overview of the different types of eczema.

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Eczema.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parasites: About pubic "crab" lice.

  5. Boston Children's Hospital, Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine: Young Men's Health. Pubic lice ("crabs").

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital herpes: Detailed fact sheet.

  7. Planned Parenthood. What are the symptoms of herpes?

  8. National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Genital herpes - self-care.

  9. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Lichen sclerosus.

  10. Cedars Sinai. Lichen sclerosus.

  11. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to relieve itchy skin.

  12. American Sexual health Association. Vaginal health.

  13. Cleveland Clinic. Vulvar care.

  14. Cornell University, Cornell Health. Maintaining vaginal health.

  15. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaginal candidiasis.