Vaginal Itching and Perimenopause — What You Need to Know
If you’re in perimenopause, you’ve probably experienced dry skin around your vulval area. We can find it embarrassing to talk about vaginal itching, but millions of women suffer from it every year. In fact, this kind of skin condition is so common among perimenopausal women that there are medical codes for vaginal itching for doctors to quickly diagnose the issue. This is just one of the symptoms of perimenopause that women may experience as their bodies transition into menopause. But what does that mean? And how can you get relief?
Perimenopause, Intimate Skin Conditions, and Vaginal Itching
Keeping up with the changes in your body during perimenopause can be overwhelming. Along with things like menopausal weight changes and brain fog, you may also experience changes in your skin — which may include dry skin around your vulva.
Fortunately, because intimate skin conditions are not uncommon with perimenopausal women, and doctors have identified multiple causes for vaginal itching, you can rest assured that you’re not alone. Many women experience vulvar skin peeling, intense itchiness and dry skin associated with perimenopause, and there are treatments to help get relief from these and other symptoms.
What is Vulvar Peeling and What Causes it?
But what exactly is vulvar skin peeling? Let’s take a moment to explain a few terms and define the connection between perimenopause and intimate skin conditions. Vaginal itching around perimenopause is often a result of the skin changing as our estrogen levels fall and the skin becomes thinner. The dead cells slough off, which, as the name implies, is vulvar skin peeling. Some peeling and shedding of dead skin cells is perfectly healthy and normal, but in that instance, you wouldn’t even notice that your body is shedding skin cells.
Women notice vulvar skin peeling because it’s accompanied by intimate itching and dry skin. In the transition to menopause, your body produces less estrogen, and because estrogen provides protection to skin cells and promotes the production of vaginal secretions, decreased estrogen levels tend to lead to thinning of the vaginal and vulvar skin. In turn, this leads to drier, more delicate skin around your private area, which is what creates the itching and burning feeling that comes when the vulvar skin peels.
What is Vulvar Dermatitis and What Causes it?
Vulvar dermatitis is similar to vulvar skin peeling, but it’s a slightly different condition. The vaginal itching associated with vulvar peeling is a result of dryness due to skin thinning and peeling. Vulvar dermatitis, on the other hand, usually presents with redness, inflammation, and itchiness around the opening of the vagina. In cases of vulvar dermatitis, this reaction is usually caused by prolonged heat or wetness and may occur in reaction to scented soaps, wipes, toilet paper, clothing, or chemicals.
Vulvar dermatitis can happen at any time in a woman’s life. Perimenopausal women may experience it for the first time due to changes in their bodies’ hormone levels. These changes can cause you to be more sensitive to certain scents, fabrics, and chemicals, which may result in a case of vulvar dermatitis, but it is not very common to link it directly to perimenopause.
Can a Yeast Infection Cause Peeling Skin and Vaginal Itching?
While perimenopausal vulvar skin peeling is often associated with lack of estrogen, that’s not the only cause of peeling, dry skin. Yeast infections can cause peeling skin and vaginal itching too.
Yeast infections that cause peeling, dry skin around the vulval area are most often caused by Candida yeast. The resulting infection is called cutaneous candidiasis. This is, by far, one of the most common causes of vaginal itching in women of all ages.
How to Tell if You have Vulvar Peeling or Vulvar Dermatitis
So, how can you tell if you have vulvar skin peeling, vulvar dermatitis, a yeast infection, or some other perimenopause ICD-10 code associated with vaginal itching? First, before you try any treatment for dry skin around your vulva, you should consult with your doctor. They can help you get an accurate diagnosis and determine the right treatment plan. If you have vulvar skin peeling due to low estrogen, you may benefit more from balancing your hormones. This might include prescription menopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which works by replacing and levelling the falling estrogen and progesterone in your body. Another option is topical estrogen creams or pessaries. These can prevent, or even reverse, some of these changes by making estrogen available again to the body. If you have a yeast infection, you may need a prescription or over-the-counter remedy.
For your own understanding of your body, though, it’s good to know the difference between vulvar skin peeling and vulvar dermatitis. Vulvar peeling is actually a symptom of several potential conditions. With vulvar peeling, the skin of the vulva and/or vagina begins peeling due to thinning and/or dryness. On the other hand, vulvar dermatitis is a specific reaction to something that your body has come in contact with.
While you wait to see your doctor, if you suspect that you have vulvar dermatitis, you should avoid as many potential irritants as possible, including but not limited to:
- Scented soaps, gels, creams, and lotions
- Bubble bath, bath bombs, bath salts, and skin softening oils
- Fabric softeners
- Baby wipes and towelettes
- Scented tampons and pads
- Lubricated or flavored condoms
- Synthetic fabrics (e.g., nylon, polyester)
Treating Vaginal Itching, Vulvar Peeling, and Vulvar Dermatitis
As we mentioned earlier, you should always consult with your doctor before embarking on any kind of treatment for vulvar skin peeling or dry skin around your delicate intimate areas. And don’t worry if HRT or estrogen creams are not your first choice, there are other several ways to treat vaginal itching, including at-home, over-the-counter, and prescription solutions. These include:
Boosting water intake. Drink at least 64 ounces of water every day, and if you’re exercising, try to increase that to 96 ounces. And you can boost your vaginal moisture with a high-quality vaginal lubricant too.
Balance your hormones through diet or supplements. When vaginal itching occurs due to low estrogen, the answer may be as simple as taking a dietary supplement or eating a hormone-balancing diet. Phytotherapy, which uses plant-derived medicines to promote balanced hormones may also help your body produce proper lubrication and repair damaged cells.
Avoid irritants. If you’re suffering from vulvar dermatitis due to a reaction to an irritant, you may be able to solve the problem by avoiding that irritant. Start with the list above and talk with your doctor about any other chemicals, fabrics, or substances that may be impacting your vaginal health.
Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods and foods rich in probiotics can help regulate your gut flora and some people find this also helps their vaginal flora. The theory is that the “good bacteria” eat away excess Candida yeast, and can help you avoid the itching and burning of yeast infections.With the right hormone balance and a healthy diet, perimenopausal women can enjoy life without the pain and burning of dry skin around their private area. Try some of these natural treatments and see what works best for you to stop vulvar skin peeling and vulvar dermatitis — so you can get back to living your life without vaginal itching.