Menopause and Vaginal Itching: What You Should Know

Vaginal itching is one of many symptoms women experience when they reach menopause and during postmenopause. This is due to a condition called atrophic vaginitis (vaginal atrophy), where the vagina’s lining becomes drier and thinner from decreased estrogen levels. Other symptoms may include:

This article examines vaginal itching during menopause, medications and home remedies that may help alleviate the discomfort, and when to see your healthcare provider.

Older woman with doctor.

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Menopause and Estrogen Levels

As women age, their estrogen levels change as they approach menopause. Once the ovaries stop producing eggs, hormone levels decrease, and menstruation comes to an end (a full 12 months), a woman has reached menopause and is no longer fertile. 

Estrogen is a key hormone that aids in the development and health of the reproductive organs. During perimenopause, estrogen levels decline in a sporadic manner. Symptoms may include changes in sex drive, hot flashes and night sweats, and vaginal dryness. 

However, after menopause some conditions are linked to the big drop in estrogen levels that include osteoporosis and an increase in heart disease. Slower metabolism and weight gain are also associated with menopause. 

Menopause Symptoms

When transitioning into menopause, your symptoms may include: 

  • Hot flashes 
  • Night sweats and/or cold flashes
  • Vaginal dryness; painful sex
  • Frequent urination
  • Insomnia
  • Emotional changes 
  • Dry skin, dry eyes, or dry mouth


Estrogen Levels and Vaginal Itching

As estrogen levels decrease, vaginal atrophy can occur. This causes the vaginal lining to become thinner and lose its elasticity, and the vaginal canal narrows and shortens. The first sign is a decrease of vaginal fluids but also a burning and/or itching of the vagina and vulvar (pruritus). Other vaginal atrophy symptoms may include:

  • Change in the vagina’s acid balance
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Dyspareunia (pain during sex)
  • Yellow discharge
  • Spotting or bleeding
  • Feeling of pressure

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider who can assess whether or not it is vaginal atrophy.

Other Causes

While vaginal atrophy may be the cause of vaginal itching, there are other conditions that can lead to similar discomfort including:

Vaginal itching can also occur from sweat, eczema, or wearing tight clothing.

Treatment

To initiate the appropriate treatment your healthcare provider may perform an exam and other testing which may include:

  • Detailed pelvic exam
  • Urine analysis and culture
  • Vaginal ultrasound
  • Pap test
  • Blood hormone testing
  • Vaginal pH testing

Once your healthcare provider receives the results, they will either prescribe medications or recommend home remedies that can help relieve the symptoms.

Home Remedies

Colloidal oatmeal, which can alleviate skin dryness and itchiness, is used in a variety of personal care products. In a series of studies, researchers discovered that personal care products that listed colloidal oatmeal as a key ingredient had a low irritant and low allergic potential. 

Increasing hydration to your body may also help mitigate vaginal atrophy. Avoiding abrasive soaps and detergents may also be recommended as a home remedy.

Medication

If your healthcare provider determines vaginal atrophy is the cause of your vaginal itching, they may recommend lubricants to moisturize the vagina and help alleviate the itch. If it's a yeast infection, an antifungal medication will be prescribed.

To restore depleted estrogen, intravaginal or oral hormone therapy (HT) may be suggested. HT can provide relief from the symptoms of vaginal atrophy, but it can also help restore the vagina's acidity levels, thicken the skin (back to how it was originally), maintain natural moisture, and improve bacterial balance. Intravaginal creams or ointments are the most common initially prescribed HT for vaginal atrophy.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you are experiencing other symptoms like a foul smelling discharge, bleeding, chronic urinary tract infections, pain, or a fever, call your healthcare provider to make sure there are no other issues.

Summary

An itchy vagina or vulva is a common symptom of vaginal atrophy due to low estrogen levels when you’ve entered menopause or you’re postmenopausal. If your condition is accompanied by other symptoms, make an appointment with your healthcare provider to determine whether it is vaginal atrophy or another condition. Once you have a diagnosis, your healthcare provider will recommend the best treatment to alleviate your symptoms. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What age does menopause start?

    Menopause usually starts around age 50, but in some women it can start earlier.

  • How long does menopause last?

    Perimenopause can last up to four years, and when your menstrual period has been gone for longer than 12 consecutive months, you've entered postmenopause, when you're no longer ovulating.

  • How early does menopause start?

    Menopause on average starts between the ages of 45 and 55. For some women, early menopause starts at age 45 or younger.

4 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. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office on Women's Health. Menopause symptoms and relief.

  2. Bachmann GA, Nevadunsky NS. Diagnosis and treatment of atrophic vaginitisAFP. 2000;61(10):3090-3096.

  3. MedlinePlus. Vaginal itching and discharge.

  4. van Dijk G, Kavousi M, Troup J, Franco OH, Health issues for menopausal women: the top 11 conditions have common solutions. Maturitas. 2015;80(1):24-30. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2014.09.013

By Rebeca Schiller
Rebeca Schiller is a health and wellness writer with over a decade of experience covering topics including digestive health, pain management, and holistic nutrition.