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STDWatch
Hannah Kingston

Mar 25, 20227 min read

STDs that cause itching

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While many cases of STDs are completely asymptomatic, genital itching can be a sign that you have an STD. Let’s go over some of the STDs that can cause itching and what you need to know about them.

STDs that cause itching

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea, when it does cause symptoms, they can include:

  • Painful urination and/or intercourse
  • Pus-like penile discharge
  • Green or yellowish vaginal discharge
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Vaginal or anal itching
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain

Chlamydia

Chlamydia, signs of chlamydia can include:

  • An unusual vaginal discharge with a strong smell
  • Itching around your genitals
  • Painful urination and/or intercourse
  • Penile discharge
  • Lower abdominal pain

Herpes

Herpes is one of the most common STDs around the world, and it can affect the mouth, the genitals, and the rectum. Herpes is a chronic disease characterized by sporadic outbreaks that can cause:

  • An intense itching, tingling, or burning sensation in the affected area that precedes;
  • The formation of clusters of small, fluid-filled blisters that become ulcers before scabbing over

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of trichomoniasis in women can include:

  • Foul smelling vaginal discharge that can be green, yellow, white, or gray
  • Genital irritation, itching, and swelling
  • Painful urination and/or intercourse
  • Penile irritation
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Penile discharge

HPV

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that can lead to genital warts and some types of cancer. HPV is characterized by the presence of small, cauliflower-shaped warts on the genital area. These warts can be flesh-colored, pink, or brown, and they can form clusters. According to a study published by the Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, other symptoms of HPV can include:

  • Discharge
  • Burning sensation
  • Itching
  • Fissures
  • Pain during intercourse

Other causes of genital itching

It’s easy to think that all cases of genital itching must be caused by an STI, but in reality, there are many other things that can cause this issue. Some causes of genital itching that aren’t related to STDs include:

Irritation

In some cases, contact with certain substances can cause genital irritation and itching. This typically happens when you use certain products in your genital area, including:

  • Intimate hygiene products
  • Soap
  • Detergent
  • A new underwear material
  • Douches
  • Lubricants
  • Condoms
  • Sex toys

Skin conditions

Skin diseases can affect any part of your skin, including your genitals. If your genital itching is caused by a skin condition, you’ll probably experience skin irritation on other parts of your body. 

According to the Cleveland Clinic, some of the skin conditions that can affect your genitals include:

  • Eczema
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Psoriasis
  • Lichen sclerosus

Yeast infections

Yeast infections, also known as candidiasis, are fungal infections typically caused by a fungus called Candida spp. Although penetrative intercourse can increase your risk of yeast infections, there are many other possible causes for this condition, and they’re not considered to be STDs. According to the Mayo Clinic, risk factors for genital candidiasis include:

  • Recent antibiotic use
  • Pregnancy
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Oral contraceptives or hormonal therapy
  • Immunosuppression

The signs of candidiasis can include:

  • Intense vagina itching and irritation
  • Dry, red, cracked skin around your genitals
  • A burning sensation during intercourse and/or urination
  • Thick, white vaginal discharge that resembles cottage cheese

Bacterial vaginosis (BV)

Similarly to candidiasis, bacterial vaginosis is caused by an imbalance in your vaginal flora. Although the exact cause of BV isn’t known, we do know that it rarely affects women who aren’t sexually active. According to the CDC, risk factors for BV include:

  • Douching
  • Not using condoms
  • Having new or multiple sex partners

Menopause

Menopause leads to significant hormonal changes in women, and it can result in vaginal itching. Some of the causes of vaginal itching in postmenopausal women include:

  • Vaginal dryness
  • Atrophic vaginitis
  • Precancerous changes
  • Certain types of cancer

If you’re experiencing genital itching, you should seek medical assistance to determine its origin. In most cases, genital itching will subside once the underlying cause is identified and treated. 

Even if your vaginal itching isn’t caused by an STD, it’s very important to get it under control. In addition to being uncomfortable, itching and irritation can lead to tiny lesions on your skin that can increase your risk of getting an STD. 

However, it’s important to remember that even if you don’t experience any itching, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have an STD. There are other signs that you need to look out for, and remember: we all need to get regular STD testing and practice safe sex. You can learn more about at-home STD testing and other sexual health topics at STDWatch.com.

Sources:

Gonorrhea - mayoclinic.org

Chlamydia - cdc.gov

Trichomoniasis - mayoclinic.org

Clinical characteristics of papillomavirus-vulvovaginitis. A new entity with oncogenic potential - pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Sexual Health: Genital Itching - my.clevelandclinic.org

Yeast infection (vaginal) - mayoclinic.org

Bacterial Vaginosis – CDC Fact Sheet - cdc.gov


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