What causes genital itching?

Genital itching can be a symptom of many conditions. These may include vaginal infections in females or jock itch in males. In either sex, itching can be caused by skin irritation, sexually transmitted diseases, and allergies.

In many cases, genital itching that is caused by irritation will clear up on its own if the irritants (lotions, soaps) are removed. Other causes of itching may require more intensive treatment. If you are concerned about genital itching that does not go away, talk to your doctor or another health care professional.

How can genital itching be avoided?

Females should take the following steps to help avoid genital itching:

  • After urination or bowel movements, wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from the anus (rectum) entering the vagina.
  • Avoid chemical products such as vaginal douches or feminine hygiene sprays, which can upset the acidic balance of the vagina.
  • Avoid the use of excessive amounts of laundry detergent in the washing machine.
  • Stay away from over-the-counter itch blockers, as these products can make the itching worse in the long term.
  • If you suspect a lubricant might be worsening the itching, talk to your doctor about the best options.
  • Avoid trauma to the area, such as excessive shaving and scratching.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet to maintain healthy bacteria in the vagina.

Males should take the following steps to help avoid genital itching:

  • Wash the penis well, including the area under the foreskin in uncircumcised men.
  • If you sweat throughout the day, consider changing underwear frequently.

Both males and females should take the following steps to help prevent genital itching:

  • Keep the genital area clean and dry. Use mild soap, or better yet, avoid soap completely, and rinse well with water. Avoid over-cleaning the vaginal area.
  • Wear loose, natural-fiber underwear and clothing. Change underwear at least every 24 hours.
  • Dry off thoroughly after bathing and swimming. Avoid staying in wet clothing for long periods of time.
  • Avoid unprotected sex, especially if you are worried that you or your partner might have an infection.


  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease. Genital Itch in Women Accessed 1/28/2015.
  • American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Fungus Infections Accessed 1/28/2015.
  • DermNet New Zealand Trust. Itchy Vulva (Pruritus Vulvae) Accessed 1/28/2015.
  • DermNet New Zealand Trust. Balanitis Accessed 1/28/2015.
  • Berger TG. Dermatologic Disorders. In: Papadakis MA, McPhee SJ, Rabow MW. eds. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2015. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2014. library.ccf.org Accessed 1/28/2015.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 1/28/2015…#12324