An itchy urethra in females is a symptom from an inflamed urethra. This condition is usually caused by urethritis or a yeast infection. Women who have an irritated urethra may also be experiencing burning when peeing, or itching around the vaginal area. Read below for more information on what causes female urethral itchiness and treatment options.
Symptoms of female urethral itchiness
An itch is an uncomfortable sensation on the skin that causes the urge to scratch. While itching in this area of the body may be embarrassing or concerning, it is important not to ignore it and to take proper measures to determine the cause.
This sensation in the lower urethra can be associated with many conditions and symptoms including:
- Pain or burning
- Blisters or bumps
- Painful urination (dysuria)
- Genital discharge
- Increased frequency or urge to urinate
- Changes in skin texture: It may feel scaly, leathery, or papery, or the skinmay peel.
- Itching that involves other parts of the body Such as the pubic area, buttocks, scrotum, and inner thigh.
Scratching is also an important symptom of urethral itchiness. Though scratching can be helpful in relieving itchiness, it only offers temporary relief. Scratching can also result in breaks in the skin that can lead to bleeding or infection, further exacerbating the issue.
It is important to follow up with your healthcare provider if you experience any of the above symptoms. Prompt treatment can go a long way in providing relief and resolution of your symptoms.
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What causes a woman's urethra to itch?
Itching, also known as pruritus, is the result of inflammation. Inflammation that results in urethral itching is commonly the result of rashes caused by infections, dermatologic skin conditions or environmental exposures that affect components of the urinary tract.
The female urinary tract is composed of the following parts:
- Kidneys These two organs filter toxins and waste products that will be expelled in the urine.
- Ureters These long tubes carry urine from the kidney to the bladder.
- Bladder This is the organ in which urine is stored.
- Urethra This is the opening where urine is expelled from the body.
See this image for a visual representation.
The female urinary tract is particularly susceptible to urethral itching due to its anatomy. The urethra sits very close to the anus and its opening is in very close contact to the vagina. Any pathogens that infect the anus or genital area can easily move through the components of the urinary tract including the urethra and bladder.
Though many of these rashes are caused by sexually transmitted infections, there are also many conditions that are not sexually transmitted. These conditions can be grouped into the following categories:
Infectious causes of female urethral itchiness include the following.
- Bacterial Bacteria within the GI tract can infect the bladder causing an infection that can result in urethral itchiness. Furthermore, many types of outside bacteria can enter the body easily via the urinary tract, including sexually transmitted bacteria such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. These bacteria can grow and multiply in the bladder causing many symptoms associated with urethral itchiness. Bacteria from the anus can directly infect the urethra as well also resulting in similar symptoms.
- Viral Sexually transmitted viral infections such as herpes can cause female urethral itchiness as well as many associated symptoms such as blistering and painful bumps. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is another common viral infection that results in itchy genital warts.
- Fungal Many fungal infections affect the skin and can cause rashes that result in intense itching and discomfort. Candida fungi are very common on the skin and can overgrow in the genital area causing itching in addition to genital discharge.
Dermatologic causes involve any condition involving the skin, nails, and hair. Many non-sexually transmitted bacteria and fungi can result in inflammatory conditions that can lead to itching of the genital area and urethra. Furthermore, imbalances in the body's immune functions can also result in dermatologic conditions that may result in serious itching.
Environmental causes are related to certain exposures or lifestyle habits.
- Contact allergies Scented soaps, lotions, toiletries, and other body products can irritate the genital tissue and cause itchy, dry skin. It is important to take note of how your body reacts to certain products and limit use in order to control your symptoms.
- Irritation Keep in mind that not all causes of female urethral itchiness are medically related. Environmental exposures such as sweat, poor hygiene, and even uncomfortable underwear can irritate the genital area and cause symptoms.
This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
Yeast infections are due to alterations in the balance of microscopic organisms in the vulvar and vaginal regions. The term "yeast infection" is most commonly used to describe symptoms caused by the fungus Candida albicans.
Symptoms include itching of the vaginal and vulva, burning, redness...
Irritant contact dermatitis of the vagina
Contact irritant dermatitis of the vagina occurs when there is an irritant of some sort that causes damage to the skin. The irritation is often caused by friction or chemicals.
Top Symptoms: vaginal itch or burning, vulvovaginal redness, vaginal discharge, urinary changes
Symptoms that always occur with irritant contact dermatitis of the vagina: vaginal itch or burning
Symptoms that never occur with irritant contact dermatitis of the vagina: urinary changes, vaginal discharge
Atrophic vaginitis is a common condition that may affect up to 47% of postmenopausal women. It occurs due to low levels of estrogen which can be caused by menopause, medical treatments, and hormonal conditions, among other things.
Symptoms of atrophic vaginitis include vaginal dry...
Symptoms of menopause
Menopause is the name for the natural process by which the menstrual cycle (period) stops happening in a woman. Usually, the process is gradual (takes months or years) and occurs from the age of 45 to 55 years. Menopause is officially diagnosed once a woman stops having a period for 12 months continuously. A woman with menopause will notice a decrease in the number and regularity of her periods until they completely stop. In addition, she may notice a number of symptoms that occur as a result of decreased estrogen levels, such as hot flashes, changes in mood, sleep problems, vaginal dryness, changes in libido, and changes in sexual function. Certain medications exist that can decrease these symptoms.
Top Symptoms: fatigue, delay in or irregular periods, vaginal discharge, anxiety, trouble sleeping
Symptoms that always occur with symptoms of menopause: delay in or irregular periods
Bacterial vaginosis is an inflammation of the vagina due to overgrowth of the bacteria which are normally present.
It is not considered an STD (sexually transmitted disease) but nearly all cases are found in women after unprotected sexual contact, especially with multiple partners. Frequent douching is also a factor.
Male partners do not carry this condition, but it can spread between female partners.
Common symptoms include an itchy, foul-smelling discharge that may look grayish or greenish, as well as burning during urination. However, some women have no symptoms.
The greatest risks of bacterial vaginosis are secondary. The symptoms can be similar to actual STDs and so should not be ignored. This condition makes a woman more vulnerable to actual STDs, as well as to pelvic inflammatory disease and to infections following any gynecologic surgery.
Pregnant women with bacterial vaginosis are at risk for premature or low-birth-weight babies.
Diagnosis is made through symptoms, and/or pelvic exam and vaginal swab.
Treatment consists of oral medication, and sometimes a cream or gel that is inserted into the vagina.
Top Symptoms: vaginal itch or burning, vulvovaginal odor, bloody vaginal discharge, white/gray vaginal discharge, thick vaginal discharge
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Lichen sclerosus is chronic skin condition in which a person forms patches of white, wrinkly, thin skin, often described as being like "cigarette paper." Most people with this condition will experience it on their anus and genital regions, and some will experience it on other parts of their body.
The primary symptom of lichen sclerosus is the presence of skin changes as well as bruising, bleeding, inflammation, itching and pain in the affected areas.
The condition slowly progresses over time without treatment. Lichen sclerosus is benign but can cause significant discomfort and disfigurement. Treatment options include topical and oral medications, phototherapy, and circumcision in men to remove damaged skin.
Top Symptoms: vaginal itch or burning, vaginal pain, painful sex, dry skin on the outside of the vagina, painful urination
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Vaginal trichomonas infection
Trichomonas vaginalis infection (or "Trichomoniasis" or "trich") is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by a parasite of the same name. It affects over 3 million people per year, but only about 30% have any symptoms.
Top Symptoms: vaginal discharge, vulvovaginal odor, vaginal itch or burning, vaginal bleeding, white/gray vaginal discharge
Symptoms that always occur with vaginal trichomonas infection: vaginal discharge
Symptoms that never occur with vaginal trichomonas infection: vaginal ulcer
Urgency: Primary care doctor
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Treatment options for an itchy urethra in females
If you are experiencing female urethral itchiness, make an appointment with your physician. Most causes of female urethral itchiness are easily treatable and often not life-threatening.
Based on your symptoms your physician may:
- Test your urine: This is to see if you have an infection.
- Swab the vaginal area: This is to collect skin cells and determine if bacteria, yeast or other organisms are causing inflammation.
Depending on the findings, your physician may prescribe the following:
- Antibiotic s:** It is important to take the antibiotics as instructed, because skipping doses may make the treatment less effective and put you at risk for developing other infections.
- Topical steroid crea m:** If your itching is due to a dermatologic condition, your physician may prescribe a topical steroid cream to reduce the inflammation and skin changes.
- Antifungal medication or crea m:** Similar to antibiotics that treat bacteria, there are medications that you can take to treat fungal causes of your symptoms.
If you are looking to prevent these symptoms, there are many things you can do at home and easily change in your routine to help prevent urethral itchiness:
- Soaps: Limit the use of any scented bath and body products to reduce the risk of irritation.
- Safe sex: Use lubrication and condoms during sexual activity to protect yourself from irritation and sexually transmitted infections.
- Clothing: Wear breathable clothing around the genital area such as cotton or bamboo. Maintain proper hygiene keep your genital area clean.
- Wear clean, dry clothes after activities: Do not keep wet clothes such as swimsuits or workout attire on for long periods of time.
Make another appointment with your doctor or go straight to the hospital
If you experience fever, chills, and/or abdominal pain along with your urethral itching. These symptoms could signal an infection of the vagina or other parts of your reproductive system that is worsening and causing systemic problems.
FAQs about female urethral itchiness
Here are some frequently asked questions about female urethral itchiness.
Will the itching spread?
The itching may spread to include other parts of the genital area such as the vagina or labia.
What are some complications of female urethral itchiness?
Complications of female urethral itchiness are largely dependent on the cause. For example, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a very common cause of this symptom and complications may include situations such as permanent kidney damage or sepsis, which is a life-threatening complication of infection characterized by symptoms such as fever and low blood pressure (hypotension).
When will my symptoms of urethral itchiness resolve?
Your symptoms of urethral itchiness usually resolve with treatment, especially if they are due to a bacterial or fungal cause. Nevertheless, some women may experience causes of urethral itchiness that continue to recur despite adequate treatment. In these cases, the symptoms may become chronic. It is important to talk with your healthcare professional about both preventive and curative treatments for your symptoms in order to keep recurrence at bay.
Is the itchiness contagious?
The itching itself is not contagious but the underlying cause for the symptom may be contagious. For example, if your symptoms are due to a sexually transmitted bacteria or virus, you may spread the pathogen by contact with sexual intercourse. Causes of urethral itchiness that involve environmental allergens and causes are less likely to be contagious.
Is female urethral itchiness serious?
Female urethral itchiness, though common, can signal an underlying condition that requires prompt medical attention. Furthermore, if your symptoms are left untreated you may be at risk for developing serious complications such as permanent kidney damage, sepsis and even risk of delivering prematurely.
Questions your doctor may ask about female urethral itchiness
- Do you feel pain when you urinate?
- Have you ever had a yeast infection?
- When was your last menstrual period?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.
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- Disorders of the Vulva: Common Causes of Vulvar Pain, Burning, and Itching. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published September 2015. ACOG Link