What is a vaginal burning sensation?

A vaginal burning sensation is an abnormal condition of the vagina often caused by inflammation or infection of the vagina, genitals, or urinary tract. Because these structures are very closely located and related, what may feel like vaginal burning may actually be burning or discomfort occurring in the vulva or external genital area.

Vaginal burning sensations vary in intensity depending on the underlying cause and individual factors. The burning sensation can be constant or only felt during certain activities, such as urination or sex. A vaginal burning sensation can appear suddenly or gradually build over weeks or months.

A common underlying cause of vaginal or genitalia burning is intense itching and scratching of the genital area due to a vaginal yeast infection (vaginal thrush) caused by Candida albicans. A vaginal burning sensation can also be due to a variety of other diseases, disorders and conditions that cause itching or affect the vagina, cervix, genitals, or urinary tract including:

  • Changes in hormones

  • Infections such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

  • Sensitivity or allergic reactions to certain substances

  • Urinary tract infections

Making a diagnosis of the underlying cause of vaginal burning includes taking a medical and sexual history and completing a physical and pelvic exam. During a pelvic examination, your health care practitioner will examine the external genitalia and gently open the vagina with a smooth instrument called a speculum in order to view the vagina and cervix. Your provider will also take a small sample of cells to determine if an infection is present and the type of infectious organism.

A vaginal burning sensation is often treatable. Treatment of vaginal burning caused by a disease or infection varies and is tailored to the underlying cause and the presence of any complications. For example, if vaginal burning is caused by a yeast infection, antifungal medications are prescribed. If vaginal burning is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics are prescribed.

You should seek prompt medical care if you have unexplained or persistent vaginal burning. Some underlying causes, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and urinary tract infections, can lead to serious complications if untreated. Complications include kidney infection, pelvic inflammatory disease, and serious complications of pregnancy and of the newborn child. Early diagnosis and treatment of the underlying causes of vaginal burning reduce the risk of potential complications.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with a vaginal burning sensation?

A vaginal burning sensation may occur with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, a vaginal burning sensation due to a yeast infection generally occurs with a thick, white vaginal discharge with a texture that resembles cottage cheese.

Symptoms that may occur along with a vaginal burning sensation

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CAUSES

What causes a vaginal burning sensation?

A vaginal burning sensation can be caused by a variety of mild to serious disorders, diseases and conditions that affect the vagina, cervix, genitals, or urinary tract. It can also be caused by physical factors in your environment. Depending on the cause, you may experience continuous vaginal burning or you may only feel burning or discomfort while urinating or during sex.

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Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 11, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.