Genital itching in either sex is an irritating problem that can simply be caused by allergies and skin irritations, or by more serious disorders and diseases such as diabetes.
In cases where genital itching is caused by irritation or allergy, avoiding exposure to the irritant or allergen may be all that is needed for the itching to resolve.
However, other causes of the condition may be more difficult to treat or may require more intensive treatment and could ultimately lead to serious complications.
What are the causes of genital itchiness?
Itching in the genital region can result from a wide range of things, including:
- Allergic reactions
- Bacterial vaginosis - a disease of the vagina caused by bacteria
- Cancer (penile and vulval cancers) - rare types of cancer that occur in the skin or tissues of the penis and a woman's external genitals (vulva), respectively
- Diabetes mellitus
- Chemical irritants such as detergents, fabric softeners, soaps, creams, ointments and sexual lubricants
- Menopause - a drop in the hormone estrogen causes vaginal dryness
- Pubic lice - parasitic insects, also known as crabs, that typically live in pubic hair
- Scabies - a contagious, extremely itchy skin disease caused by tiny mites
- Sexually transmitted diseases, such as genital herpes and trichomoniasis
- Skin conditions - such as psoriasis and eczema
- Tinea cruris - a fungal skin infection also known as ringworm of the groin
- Vaginal yeast infection
- Vaginitis - inflammation of the vaginal tissues
Note that many of the infectious causes of genital itching, such as STDs and yeast infection, are contagious.
Diabetes and genital itching
Genital itching and burning can indicate a female or male yeast infection.
Regular yeast infections are a sign of type 2 diabetes.
In diabetes, blood glucose levels can go abnormally high, which can therefore provide ideal conditions for naturally present yeast to grow and also diminishes the body’s ability to fight infection.
Diabetes can also cause a higher glucose content in the urine – another extremely suitable place for yeast to thrive.
Recognising genital itching
Genital itching is the term used to describe itching, burning or redness/soreness in and around the vagina or penis.
When to see your doctor
If you have genital itching that does not disappear after a couple days or more, or causes you concern, talk to your doctor or another healthcare professional.
Failure to seek professional medical advice could lead to further problems, such as spread of infectious disease through close body contact (usually sexual contact) or a secondary skin infection.
Additionally, it could mean an underlying disease, such as type 2 diabetes, is left diagnosed, thus increasing your risk of diabetic complications.
If you have diabetes and are regularly getting genital itching, it could be a sign that your blood glucose levels are too high. Your health team may be able to advise whether this is the case and, if so, how to bring your blood glucose levels under better control.