Female Genital Symptoms

Female Genital Symptoms

Is this your symptom?

  • Itching or dryness of external female genital area (vulva)
  • Rashes of vulva, like sores, redness, blisters, or lumps

Some Basics...

  • Vulvar symptoms include rash, itching, and dryness.
  • These symptoms can have many different causes.

Causes of Vulvar Symptoms

  • Bartholin's cyst
  • Contact dermatitis (soaps or feminine products)
  • Irritation after sex (lack of lubrication or a latex-condom allergy)
  • Poison ivy
  • Skin cancer
  • Skin problems (lichen sclerosis, squamous hyperplasia)
  • STDs (Herpes simplex, Syphilis, pubic lice, genital warts)
  • Vaginal yeast infection

Common Causes of Vulvar Itching

  • Skin Irritation: This can be caused by products like soaps, detergents, and douches. Urinary incontinence (loss of bladder control) can cause irritation from too much moisture. Do not use products that cause irritation and keep the area clean and dry. Good genital hygiene will help to prevent this.
  • Allergic Skin Reaction: This can be caused by many products. These may be benzocaine (in Vagisil anti-itch cream) and antibiotic ointments. Latex condoms, nail polish, and perfumes may also cause a reaction. Stop using products that cause the allergic reaction. Keep the area clean and dry. Good genital hygiene can help prevent this.
  • Menopause: During this time, the ovaries stop functioning. As a result, the body makes less estrogen. The skin in the genital area can become thinner. Women also note more dryness and itching. There are estrogen creams that can help these problems. A doctor will have more information about these medicines.
  • Vaginal Yeast Infection: These can sometimes cause itching. Often, there is also a new or increased vaginal discharge. It is often thick, white, cottage cheese-like, and does not smell. There are a number of over-the-counter (OTC) medications to treat yeast infections.

When to Call for Female Genital Symptoms

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Severe pain
  • Genital area looks infected (has a draining sore or spreading redness) and you have a fever
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Genital area looks infected (draining sore, ulcer, or rash is painful to touch)
  • Rash with painful tiny water blisters
  • Pain or burning with passing urine
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • You are worried you might have an STD
  • Itching that is moderate to severe (keeps you from working or going to school or sleeping)
  • Yellow, green, or gray vaginal discharge
  • Antibiotics for 3 or more days for an STD and symptoms are not better
  • Yeast infection treated at home for more than 3 days and not better
  • All other female genital symptoms
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Symptoms that are like a past yeast infection (white, thick, cottage-cheese-like, itchy discharge that doesn't smell bad)
  • Painless redness, tiny bumps, or sores on genitals for less than 24 hours
  • Mildly itchy

Care Advice

All Women

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Vulvar symptoms include rash, itching, and dryness.
    • These symptoms can have many different causes.
    • You can treat mild vulvar symptoms at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Pregnancy Test, When in Doubt:
    • If there is a chance that you might be pregnant, use a urine pregnancy test.
    • You can buy a pregnancy test at the drugstore.
    • It works best first thing in the morning.
    • Follow all package instructions.
  3. Genital Hygiene:
    • Keep your genital area clean and dry.
    • Wash daily.
    • Wipe from front to back after going to the bathroom.
    • Wear underwear that is all cotton or has a cotton crotch.
    • Do not douche.
    • Do not use scented feminine products or soap.
  4. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Pregnancy test is positive or you have trouble with the at-home test
    • Rash lasts more than 24 hours
    • Rash spreads or becomes worse
    • Fever
    • Not better after 3 days
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Vaginal Yeast Infection

  1. Genital Hygiene:
    • Keep your genital area clean and dry.
    • Wash daily.
    • Wipe from front to back after going to the bathroom.
    • Wear underwear that is all cotton or has a cotton crotch.
    • Do not douche.
    • Do not use scented soaps or feminine products.
  2. Antifungal Medication: There are many over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to treat yeast infections.
    • Sold in the United States: Femstat-3, miconazole (Monistat-3), clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin-3, Mycelex-7), and butoconazole (Femstat-3).
    • Sold in Canada: miconazole (Monistat-3) and clotrimazole (Canesten-3, Myclo-Gyne).
    • Do not use yeast medication during the 24 hours before seeing a doctor. It may change the results of an exam.
    • Caution: If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor before using these.
    • Read all package instructions.
  3. What to Expect: You should be better within 3 days. If you do not get better within 3 days, see a doctor.

Mild Vulvar Itching

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Itching can be caused by many things. These can be new soaps/detergent, perfumed toilet products, and hormone changes. Sweating can also cause itching.
    • Sometimes itching can be caused by a yeast infection.
    • You can treat vulvar itching at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Genital Hygiene:
    • Keep your genital area clean and dry.
    • Wash daily.
    • Wipe from front to back after going to the bathroom.
    • Wear underwear that is all cotton or has a cotton crotch.
    • Do not stay in wet clothing or bathing suits.
    • Do not douche.
    • Do not use scented feminine products or soaps.
  3. Cleansing: Wash the area one time with unscented soap and water. This will help to remove any irritants.
  4. Sitz Bath:
    • Sit in some lukewarm water for 10-15 minutes. Do this 1-2 times a day. You can also use a moist washcloth. This will help soothe the itchy skin.
    • Gently dry the area by patting it with a towel.
    • After the bath, put a small amount (½ tsp; 2.5 ml) of cream on the area. This will help to keep it moist. Good creams to use are Vaseline or Eucerin.
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Any rash lasts more than 24 hours
    • Fever
    • Yellow or green vaginal discharge
    • Yeast infection is not better within 3 days
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Last Reviewed: 10/20/2017 1:26:01 AM
Last Updated: 5/7/2017 1:36:05 PM

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Pubic Lice

The photo shows pubic lice in the pubic hair of groin area. Pubic lice are tiny wingless insects that live only on human beings. The are also called "crabs".

Typical symptoms of pubic lice are:

  • Itching of the pubic area is the main symptom.
  • Pubic hair contains gray bugs (lice) 1/16-inch long, that move quickly, and are difficult to see.
  • Nits (white or tan eggs) cemented to hair shafts near the skin (usually within 1/2 inch or 12 mm). Unlike dandruff or sand, nits can't be shaken off the hair shafts.

Pubic lice are very contagious:

  • The primary mode of transmission is via the skin-to-skin contact that occurs during sexual intercourse. There is a 95% chance of transmission during a single episode of sexual intercourse.
  • Rarely they can be transmitted via objects such as infected bed linens or toilet seats.