Women are prone to experiencing problems like burning, itching and irritation in the vagina. Since it is one of the most sensitive parts of the body, it is important to understand the causes of vaginal problems and address them immediately. Burning can be caused due to exposure to irritants and chemicals, infections contracted through bacteria, yeast or transmitted sexually, UTIs or menopause. Common symptoms associated with vaginal burning include pain, redness or tenderness, discharge, abnormal bleeding and an unpleasant odour. The symptom is typically diagnosed for the underlying condition using a pelvic examination and blood or imaging tests to examine for other diseases.

Treatment for burning sensation in the vagina may include medications for infections, hormonal therapy, and simple self-care techniques that can bring relief. Improved sanitary care forms the basis for the prevention of the condition, including the use of non-scented products, washing the vagina gently, avoiding synthetic clothing and drinking plenty of water.

The possible risks associated with burning in the vagina include increased chances of contracting HIV, passing of infection to the baby in pregnant women and complications of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

(Read more: Tips on keeping your vagina healthy)

  1. What is vaginal burning
  2. Vaginal burning symptoms
  3. Vaginal burning causes and risk factors
  4. Prevention of vaginal burning
  5. Diagnosis of vaginal burning
  6. Vaginal burning treatment
  7. Vaginal burning prognosis and complications

Vaginal burning is among the most commonly experienced discomforts in women. There can be various types of discomfort in the vagina – some include irritation, pain and soreness. Vaginal burning may be an acute burning sensation or a pricking feeling in the vagina or the vulva and clitoris. It may sometimes be accompanied by itching. The burning may subside spontaneously. However, if it persists, it is important to seek medical help since the underlying condition may worsen.

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While vaginal burning is a specific symptom in itself and can indicate a more complicated disorder, there are several tell-tale signs that you can look for when you experience a burning sensation in your vagina and are unsure of what it may be.

Vaginal burning may be experienced solely or there may be other accompanying symptoms that you can watch for, like:

  • Redness, swelling or abrasion.
  • Unusual discharge from the vagina.
  • A distinct smell from the vagina and its secretions.
  • Pain or cramps in the vaginal region. (Read more: Vagina pain causes)
  • Painful urination
  • Bleeding or spotting between periods.
  • Fish-like odour typically experienced after sex.


In some cases, vaginal burning may be due to a simple lack of hydration or sensitiveness to the underpants fabric. However, there are more serious problems, which could be showing themselves through this symptom. Here are some causes of burning in the vagina.

  • Irritation 
    Sometimes vaginal burning is simply a reaction of the vagina experiencing irritation of some kind. It could be from synthetic or tight-fitting clothes and underwear, perfumes and other chemicals in soap, abrasion or friction of some kind or a minor injury. It can also be experienced because of residual parts of tampons or tissue from sanitary napkins remaining in or around the vagina.
  • Bacteria
    Certain types of bacteria in the vagina may cause irritation and itching. All women have harmless bacteria present in their vagina, which is normal and helps maintain the pH of the vagina. When harmful bacteria grow, or if the normal bacteria present in the vagina grow into unusually large numbers, a burning sensation may develop. It is important to treat this immediately as it could cause STDs. Bacterial infections are most commonly experienced in women between the ages of 15 to 45 years.
  • Yeast
    Yeast infections in the vagina may cause burning as one of the many symptoms. This condition is commonly called thrush. Thrush can be contracted in women who are pregnant, taking antibiotics or oral contraceptive pills, and have diabetes. (Read more: Vaginal yeast infection symptoms)
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
    Burning is the most commonly experienced symptom in those who have UTIs. While this is easy to treat, the chances of recurrence are high. (Read more: Home remedies for UTIs)
  • Trichomoniasis
    A parasite, Trichomonas, usually passed on to the partner while having sex, causes a common infection called Trichomoniasis and is the reason for burning sensation in the vagina, along with discomfort and itching. (Read more: Parasitic infections symptoms)
  • Gonorrhoea
    Gonorrhoea is a commonly transmitted STD in those between the ages of 15 to 25. The bacterial infection usually spreads into the cervix, fallopian tubes and uterus and may cause a burning sensation.
  • Chlamydia
    While chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection, burning and itching make the most obvious of its symptoms; it is otherwise silent and shows no other signs.
  • Genital Herpes
    Herpes affects a large percentage of the female population and is among the most common reasons for experiencing vaginal burning.
  • Menopause
    Women who are either approaching menopause or are already going through it may experience vaginal burning as a result of hormonal imbalance. While not every menopausal woman may experience burning, it is among the common physiological symptoms that are felt by menopausal women.

Risk Factors

Here are some factors that predispose a woman to experience vaginal burning.

  • Untreated bacterial infections.
  • UTIs spreading to the kidneys, urethra and bladder if untreated.
  • Poor personal hygiene.
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The following are some ways that vaginal burning can be prevented:

  • Make sure to keep the genital area clean. The best way to do so is using clean and cold water. Avoid using too many products or washing too frequently as it can dry the vaginal area and cause burning. Vagina has its own lubricating mechanism and using too many intimate care products may cause disbalance of the vaginal pH and healthy bacteria that inhabit the vagina. (Read more: How to wash your vagina)
  • Avoid using soaps and chemicals to clean or opt for gentle feminine care products. Do not use regular soaps and gels to clean intimate areas. Avoid scented products. They have a higher amount of chemicals and may irritate your vaginal skin.
  • Always use toilet paper from front to back while cleaning the intimate areas.
  • Avoid using synthetic underwear, and ensure you change your underwear frequently. When washing your underwear, use only a mild non-scented detergent.
  • Ensure your partner uses condoms during intercourse to prevent STDs.
  • Stay away from sexual intercourse if you experience even minimal burning.
  • If you have dryness, burning sensations could follow soon after. Use a mild vaginal moisturiser to keep your vagina hydrated, and use a lubricant before having sex.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent dryness and irritation, which can, in turn, cause burning.
  • Preventing relapses of UTIs by keeping your body clean and hydrated, and maintaining high levels of sanitisation.

A doctor will typically conduct a pelvic examination to check for the underlying cause of vaginal burning. This is usually followed by some simple blood or urine tests to confirm the diagnosis. A sample of the vaginal discharge may also be taken for examination in the case of suspected infections. Imaging tests are typically not needed to diagnose the cause of vaginal burning unless routine treatment doesn’t yield satisfactory results.

There are several courses of treatment that may be sought depending upon how the problem manifests and what the accompanying symptoms or conditions are. Women should seek help if the burning lasts for a prolonged period of time and doesn’t go away. The courses of treatment may include:

  • A course of antibiotics to treat bacterial infections like chlamydia or gonorrhoea.
  • An antifungal cream and oral medication for fungal infections like thrush.
  • Antibiotics and repeat tests in the case of UTIs.
  • Oral metronidazole or tinidazole for trichomoniasis.
  • Anti-viral medication for herpes.
  • Hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women.

Lifestyle management

Pointers to manage vaginal burning include:

  • Avoid touching or scratching where burning is experienced. It will help the wound heal quickly.
  • Application of ice packs to help soothe the area.
  • Using petroleum jelly can also help soothe the area and reduce burning.
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In most cases, burning sensations in the vagina are likely to lessen or go away with some simple self-care. It is only in some severe cases that medical attention is needed. Those who maintain a good self-care regimen and have high standards of hygiene are less likely to suffer from the condition. Simply treating the underlying cause can help alleviate burning sensations almost immediately.


There are a few complications that can be experienced when the underlying problem causing vaginal burning is not treated. These may include:

  • Complications arising from STDs and bacterial infections, such as worsening of the condition.
  • Transmission of infection from a pregnant mother to the child.
  • An increased risk of contracting HIV in those suffering from trichomoniasis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia.


  1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Bacterial Vaginosis – CDC Fact Sheet
  2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Gonorrhea - CDC Fact Sheet
  3. Office on Women's Health [Internet] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Vaginal yeast infections.
  4. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Trichomoniasis - CDC Fact Sheet
  5. Office on Women's Health [Internet] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Vaginal infections.
  6. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Vaginal thrush
  7. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Vaginal itching and discharge - adult and adolescent
  8. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Vaginal Diseases
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