There are many different causes of vaginal burning, including irritants, sexually transmitted diseases, and menopause. Each cause has its own symptoms and forms of treatment.

A burning sensation in the vagina is relatively common.

In this article, we examine 10 possible causes of a burning sensation in the vagina and other associated symptoms. We also look at available treatment options and potential complications.

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1. Irritation

Certain things can irritate the skin of the vagina when they come into direct contact with it. This is known as contact dermatitis.

Irritants that can cause contact dermatitis include soaps, fabrics, and perfumes. As well as burning, other signs and symptoms include:

  • severe itching
  • rawness
  • stinging
  • pain

The main treatment for irritation is to avoid whatever is causing it. Avoiding the irritant and not itching the area allow the skin to heal. Sometimes, a person may require medication.

2. Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a condition that occurs when there is too much of a certain type of bacteria in the vagina, affecting the normal balance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), BV is the most common vaginal infection in women ages 15–44.

One symptom of BV is a burning sensation in the vagina, which can also occur when urinating.

BV does not always cause symptoms. When it does, symptoms can include:

  • white or gray vaginal discharge
  • pain
  • itching
  • a strong fish-like odor, especially after sex

Having BV can increase a person’s risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If someone develops symptoms of BV, they should be checked and treated by a doctor. Treatment for this condition will often involve a course of antibiotics.

3. Yeast infection

An infection in the vagina caused by yeast can lead to a burning sensation. The medical term for this is candidiasis, and it is also known as thrush.

Associated symptoms include:

Many women get yeast infections, but some women are more likely to develop an infection if they:

Treatment is usually an antifungal medicine, which a woman can either apply directly in the form of a cream or take orally as a capsule.

4. Urinary tract infection

Different parts of the urinary tract can become infected, including the bladder, urethra, and kidneys.

A woman with a urinary tract infection (UTI) will likely feel burning in the vagina when urinating. Other symptoms of a UTI include:

  • needing to urinate suddenly or more often
  • pain when urinating
  • smelly or cloudy urine
  • blood in urine
  • pain in lower stomach
  • feeling tired or unwell

Doctors will usually prescribe antibiotics to treat urinary tract infections. In general, an infection will clear up in around 5 days after starting a course of antibiotics.

Repeat prescriptions may be required if an infection returns.

5. Trichomoniasis

Also known as trich, this is a very common STD in the United States. Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite that is passed from one person to another during sexual intercourse.

Only around 30 percent of people with trich show any symptoms. As well as a burning sensation in the vagina, these symptoms may include:

  • itching, redness, or soreness
  • discomfort when urinating
  • vaginal discharge that can be clear, white, yellow, or green and with a fishy smell

Trichomoniasis is treated using metronidazole or tinidazole, which are pills taken by mouth.

6. Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is an infection where bacteria called Neisseria gonorrheae infect mucous membranes, such as the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes. It is typically transmitted through sexual contact with someone who has the infection.

This STD is particularly common in people aged 15 to 24. Women can experience vaginal burning when urinating, as well as these symptoms:

  • pain when urinating
  • vaginal discharge
  • vaginal bleeding between periods

Gonorrhea can be cured with the right medical treatment.

7. Chlamydia

Chlamydia is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis and is typically transmitted through sexual contact with someone who has the infection.

Research suggests that at least 70 percent of people with chlamydia experience no symptoms, which is why the condition is sometimes known as a “silent” infection.

When symptoms do occur, they can include a burning sensation in the vagina, as well as:

  • increased vaginal discharge
  • pain when urinating and during sex
  • bleeding during sex and between periods

Chlamydia is treated using antibiotics. The most commonly prescribed is doxycycline.

8. Genital herpes

Genital herpes is caused by skin-to-skin contact with a person with the herpes virus. It is estimated that around 1 in 6 people in the U.S. aged 14 to 49 have genital herpes, and women are more prone to infection than men.

Once a person has the virus, it stays with them for life. However, they may not develop any signs or symptoms until the virus becomes active.

If the virus becomes active, they might experience a burning sensation in the vagina. Other symptoms include:

  • an itching or tingling sensation
  • flu-like symptoms
  • swollen glands
  • pain in the vaginal area, particularly when urinating
  • change in vaginal discharge

Painful sores, blisters, or ulcers may also develop after a few days.

The symptoms of genital herpes can be treated with antiviral medication but never cured.

9. Menopause

The shifting levels of hormones in a woman’s body before she enters menopause can affect the vagina. Vaginal burning is one possible result of these changes, especially during sex.

Other common symptoms of menopause transition include:

Not all women entering menopause have treatment to relieve symptoms, but there are often options available that a doctor can outline, including hormone therapy.

10. Genital contact allergies

The immune systems in some women can become hypersensitive to certain substances.

These substances can cause allergic irritation when they come into contact with the vagina, including:

  • semen
  • spermicides, the fluids in condoms that destroy sperm and improve contraceptive action
  • latex, the material from which many condoms are made
  • K-Y jelly and similar lubricants
  • topical and oral medications
  • rubber, as found in contraceptive rubber diaphragms
  • some feminine hygiene sprays
  • the resin used to wax stringed musical instruments
  • certain components of urine
  • scented soaps
  • bubble baths
  • douches
  • objects that contain nickel on the surface, such as zippers

Treatment mainly involves avoiding the substance that is causing the irritation. Patch testing using the suspected allergen to stimulate a controlled reaction in a clinical setting can help to identify which substance is creating the burning sensation.

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Many causes of vaginal burning require medical treatment, and anyone who has any concerns should see a doctor.

However, applying an ice pack or cold compress to the affected area can help reduce the sensation. Applying petroleum jelly to the skin can also help protect it.

Wearing cotton underwear and avoiding tight-fitting clothes can help reduce irritation in the vaginal area. It is also important to avoid products that could irritate the area further, such as perfumed soap, scented toilet paper, and sanitary products with deodorant or a plastic coating.

Some causes of vaginal burning, such as BV or STDs, can have some serious complications if left untreated.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) if the most common complication.

STDs are particularly risky to women who are pregnant, as they can affect their baby or pregnancy. Some can be passed on to the baby when they are born. Chlamydia, genital herpes, and trichomoniasis are all linked with preterm delivery.

BV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis all make people more susceptible to contracting HIV if they have sexual contact with someone who has the virus.

Many causes of vaginal burning will go away on their own over time. If they do not go away, are becoming worse, or are of a concern, then the woman should go and see a doctor.

In most cases, a doctor will prescribe medication once they have diagnosed the underlying condition causing the burning sensation.

Anyone with a sexual partner who has recently received an STD diagnosis should also consider seeing a doctor.

Below are some commonly asked questions on vaginal burning:

Why does down there feel like it’s burning?

Infections and STDs, such as bacterial vaginosis, candidiasis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, can cause a burning sensation in the vagina. Irritants and the menopause may also cause this.

How can I stop the burning down there?

Applying an ice pack or cold compress to the affected area can help reduce the burning sensation. Applying petroleum jelly to the skin can also help protect it. However, depending on the cause, a person may also require medical treatments.

What does BV burning feel like?

Symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include pain, itching, or burning in the vagina. This burning may also occur when peeing.

Which infection causes a burning sensation?

A burning sensation in the vagina can be symptomatic of bacterial vaginosis, a yeast infection, a urinary tract infection, or an STI.

What is vulvar burning?

Vulvar burning refers to a burning sensation in the vulvar. This can happen due to conditions such as:

A doctor can help a person determine the cause of vulvar burning and advise on suitable treatments.

Some cases of vaginal burning will go away on their own. Others will be relieved once the underlying cause is treated.

In some cases, however, there can be long-term and lasting effects depending on what caused the burning sensation. Long-term problems are most likely to develop if the underlying condition is not properly treated.

For each cause of burning sensations in the vagina, there is a treatment plan that can relieve this symptom, or help people to manage their condition.

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