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.

Infections that can cause a vaginal burning sensation

Vaginal burning can be caused by certain infections or by excessive itching and scratching of the genital area due to infections such as:

  • Bacterial vaginosis (overgrowth of Gardnerella vaginalis bacteria, which normally live in the vagina)

  • Chlamydia (sexually transmitted disease caused by Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria)

  • Genital herpes (sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes virus)

  • Gonorrhea (sexually transmitted disease caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria)

  • Pubic lice (also known as crabs, which do not infest the vagina but infect and cause itching in the general genital area)

  • Trichomoniasis (sexually transmitted disease caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis)

  • Urinary tract infection (bacterial infection of the urinary tract)

  • Vaginal pinworm infection that has spread from the rectum

  • Vaginal yeast infection (vaginal thrush) caused by Candida albicans

  • Vaginitis (also called vulvovaginitis, an inflammation of the vagina and vulva often caused by an infection)

Diseases and disorders that can cause a vaginal burning sensation

Vaginal burning sensation can also be caused by other disorders, diseases and conditions including:

  • Atrophic vaginitis (vaginitis that is not caused by infection)

  • Lichen sclerosus (chronic disorder that causes changes in the genitalia)

  • Vulvar cancer

  • Vulvar dystrophy (growth of abnormal skin on the vulva)

  • Vulvodynia (unexplained pain in the vulva)

Physical and hormonal causes of a vaginal burning sensation

Vaginal burning sensation can also be caused by general irritation due to the following physical factors:

  • Allergic reaction or irritation of the vagina by chemicals, such as perfumed soaps, bubble baths, feminine sprays, contraceptive foams, or jellies

  • Douching

  • High-absorbency tampon for a small amount of menstrual flow

  • Menopause

  • Rough sex or sexual assault

  • Tampon left in the vagina for more than several hours

  • Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sexual intercourse; many conditions including diabetes can cause vaginal dryness

  • Wearing tight-fitting underwear or pants that causes a heat rash or irritation of delicate genital tissues

What are the potential complications of a vaginal burning sensation?

In some cases, a sensation of vaginal burning can be due to an underlying condition that can result in serious or life-threatening complications. You can minimize the risk of serious complications by seeking medical care and following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of the underlying causes of vaginal burning include:

  • Birth defects, premature delivery, miscarriage, and stillbirth due to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) during pregnancy

  • Higher risk of catching HIV/AIDS

  • Kidney disease

  • Meningitis

  • Spread of certain infections to unborn children during pregnancy and childbirth or through breastfeeding

  • Spread of infection to the eyes or other organs

  • Spread of STDs to sexual partners

INTRODUCTION

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.

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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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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.