Since thrush is a fairly common condition, the usual mistake is to keep applying anti-fungal ointment to the vulva hoping the itching will go away. If the symptoms improve, it was probably thrush, but if it was not, it can cause complications, like allergy to one of the components of the ointment.
It is always best to see a doctor who will determine what causes the itching and prescribe the adequate treatment.
Causes of vulval itching
Thrush is one of the common causes of itching of the vulva. It is a fungal disease caused by Candida albicans. Candida is normally present in vagina but hormones and beneficial bacteria in the vagina keep it from causing an infection. If the natural balance of the vagina is disrupted, it may lead to fungus overgrowth.
Thrush may or may not cause discharge. If there is any, it does not smell bad and looks like cottage cheese. The symptoms usually worsen several days before period.
Psoriasis is a skin condition that can affect vulva as well and it can be very itchy. The skin can become red, with cracks. The disease may spread to surrounding areas like groin, buttocks and anus. Unlike psoriasis in other parts of the body, in vulva it usually does not cause scaly skin. It is possible to have psoriasis just on the vulva and not on the other body parts.
Another condition which can be very itchy is lichen sclerosus. It is not yet completely clear as to what causes this conditions. It usually affects girls during puberty and women in menopause. The skin gets pale and thin and it may lead to changes of the vulva, for example the labia may shrink as well as the vaginal opening, which makes sexual intercourse very uncomfortable and painful. This condition is treated with topical steroid ointments.
Other factors and causes
Itching of the vulva can be caused by other factors which do not include medical reasons. For example, allergies and hypersensitivity to chemicals. Vulva is a moist and warm environment and because of that the absorption of chemicals is faster and more complete.
Skin creams, soaps, deodorants, detergents, dye, sanitary pads, tampons, and disinfectants may all cause itching of the vulva.
Also, excessive hygiene, especially if using strong cleansers, may lead to irritation and itching of the area. It is important to know that washing the vagina once a day is absolutely sufficient. More that that can damage the sensitive balance of both vulva and vagina and cause problems.