Signs and Symptoms
Vaginal burning is a condition characterized by irritation and itching. It is caused by an inflammation or infection of the vagina, genitals, and urinary tract. Vaginal burning is very common. Women are likely to experience itching and burning in the genital area at some point in their lives, often more than once.
In general, vaginal burning is easily treated. However, it can also be an indicator of a more serious condition. The level of discomfort varies depending on the underlying cause. Some women may notice no discharge but burning sensation only. Others only experience it during certain activities like sex or urination.
What are the symptoms of vaginal burning?
The symptoms of vaginal burning depend on its cause. Some women notice no discharge but burning sensation only. Meanwhile, there are cases when the burning sensation is accompanied by extreme pain and bleeding. The most common symptoms of vaginal burning are irritation and severe itching in the genital area.
Vaginal burning can also cause other symptoms that are more uncommon. These include:
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Fatigue and headaches
- Rashes around the genital area
- Unusual vaginal bleeding or spotting in between periods
- Fever due to an infection
- Abdominal and back pain
These symptoms may appear at random or grow in intensity over time. Sometimes, vaginal burning can develop or lead to a more serious condition.
When should I see a doctor?
In most cases, vaginal burning will often get better on its own. Antibiotics and over-the-counter creams can bring pain relief. However, if the burning sensation becomes unbearable and recurs even after treatment, check in with your doctor.
While you might notice no discharge but burning sensation, this can still escalate into a serious health risk. Your doctor will be able to prescribe the exact medications once diagnosed.
Causes and Risk Factors
What causes vaginal burning?
Vaginal burning can have multiple causes. It ranges from mild complications to serious conditions and diseases. This burning sensation can affect the vagina, genitals, and urinary tract. Read on to know the possible causes of vaginal burning, along with the corresponding treatment.
Burning caused by irritants
There are factors that can irritate the vagina and vulva during direct contact. This is referred to as contact dermatitis. You may notice no discharge but burning sensation, along with severe itching and swelling of the genitals. Irritants can be found in the most basic everyday products, including:
- Laundry detergents
- Perfumes and other scented products
- Fabric softeners
Apart from these, there are also items you put inside your vagina that can cause vaginal burning. These include:
- Vaginal wipes and sprays
Wearing ill-fitted undergarments and other tight clothing can also cause vaginal burning. Douching, especially the scented ones, may also cause vaginal irritation.
What increases my risk for vaginal burning?
There are many risk factors for vaginal burning, including:
- Using scented products that are likely to contain irritants
- Poor vaginal care and hygiene
- Menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause
- Condoms and lubricants
Note to frequent gym-goers and athletes: People who often wear tight clothes subject their genitals to heat, which becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. Make sure to change out of sweaty or wet clothes after.
How is vaginal burning diagnosed?
Your doctor can easily diagnose vaginal burning just on the symptoms alone. While some women might notice no discharge but burning sensation as the only symptom, that does not mean it is not serious. As a result, there are other tests used to rule out infections and STIs. These include
- Physical exam. This is to check for injuries, swelling, and other visible changes on the vagina’s surrounding areas.
- Internal vaginal exam. This is to further evaluate the vagina for scarring, damages, and muscle abnormalities.
- Discharge analysis. A sample of vaginal discharge is collected for evaluation.
- Medical history. It is important to disclose your full medical history, including sexual habits and relationships to determine the cause of vaginal burning. Factors such as surgical complications, birth defects, and present medications can contribute to the burning sensation.
Treatment of vaginal burning caused by irritants
The easiest way to avoid vaginal burning is to avoid the irritant altogether. As much as possible, wash your genitals with water and plain soap. Ask your OB-GYN what products are safe for your current skin condition. Avoid using scented products as these are likely to cause irritation.
In addition, be sure to take a bath after swimming or using the sauna or hot tubs. This will help get rid of the bacteria that may come in contact with the vulva. Even if there is no discharge but burning sensation only, it is important to observe proper hygiene.
Burning caused by infections
If the itch and burning sensation is inside the vagina, it is most likely due to an infection. The most common causes of infection are:
Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
According to a report, there is a 29.2% prevalence of BV among women ages 14 to 49. Bacterial vaginosis results from the build-up of bad bacteria in the vagina. It affects the normal balance of your vaginal pH.
This is also referred to as vaginal candidiasis. Yeast infection is due to an overgrowth of candida albicans, a type of fungus. It is a common condition affecting 75% of women at least once in their lives. Yeast infection affects the vagina environment.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infection (UTI). Vaginal burning is also associated with UTI. This is because of the discomfort and burning sensation you experience when urinating. UTI occurs when bacteria gets into the different parts of the urinary tract, including the bladder, urethra, and kidneys.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
These include gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and genital herpes. In most cases, symptoms are not usually visible until getting diagnosed. However, vaginal burning is prevalent, along with discomfort in urination and unusual spotting.
Treatment of vaginal burning caused by infection
These conditions may be life-threatening. It is important to check in with a doctor if you are sexually active or if you start to show symptoms. Most of these are treated with a course of antibiotics.
Trichomoniasis and gonorrhea require the intake of multiple antiviral pills at the same time. Moreover, yeast infections can also be treated with antifungal medicine in the form of creams and gels.
Vaginal burning caused by hormonal changes
While these changes do not directly affect the vagina, they can cause dryness. Dry patches are extremely itchy, and thus can cause a burning sensation. Some women may show no discharge but burning sensation only.
Hormonal changes can be triggered by birth control pills, pregnancy, or menopause.
For example, estrogen production decreases when a woman enters menopause. Vaginal burning is one of its main indicators, especially during intercourse.
Treatment of vaginal burning caused by hormonal changes
Your doctor may likely prescribe hormonal supplements in the form of creams, tablets, or vaginal inserts. Some women may have to undergo hormone therapy to relieve symptoms.
Vaginal burning caused by skin conditions
This applies to the vulva, or the external skin surrounding the vagina. Symptoms are usually related to the underlying cause such as dry patches, scarring, and rashes. Some women would notice no discharge but burning sensation only. Vaginal burning can be caused by the following:
Eczema and psoriasis
These are thick patches of skin that are inflamed, red, or peeling. Since these are extremely itchy, burning will occur due to frequent scratching. Eczema and psoriasis can not directly affect the skin inside the vagina, but can spread around the vulva.
This condition is characterized by thin, white patches that form on the skin, especially around the vulva. These can cause scarring around the genital area due to the constant scratching. Women would also often experience pain and discomfort during urination and sex.
Treatment of vaginal burning caused by skin conditions
Eczema and psoriasis are recurring, so it is best to consult your doctor. These are likely to be treated with prescription oral medications or over-the-counter creams. Lichen sclerosus, on the other hand, can be managed by steroid medicines to reduce inflammation and irritation.
Lifestyle changes and home remedies
In general, vaginal burning can be easily treated. Whatever the underlying cause may be, the key is to keep the vagina clean and healthy.
How to Minimize Vaginal Burning
Here are some ways on how to minimize your risks, as well as some home remedies for vulvar itching and burning.
- Avoid feminine sprays, scented toilet papers, and certain detergents and soaps.
- Do not douche.
- Wash your genitals thoroughly with water and plain soap.
- Always wipe front to back after urinating and bowel movements.
- Avoid wearing ill-fitting clothes and opt for garments made from loose, breathable fabrics, like cotton.
- Change out of clothes after exercise or swimming.
- Include probiotic food in your diet, which can promote growth of healthy bacteria. Try Greek yoghurt, miso, kefir, kombucha, pickles and sauerkraut.
- Apply petroleum jelly or ice packs to relieve burning sensations.
- Cortisone creams can help relieve severe itchiness and burning sensations.
If you have any concerns, consult your doctor.
Vaginal burning is not normal, but very common. In most cases, it is usually harmless and easily treated.
However, it can also be an indicator of a more serious condition. Some women may notice no discharge but burning sensation only, but symptoms may vary from woman to woman.
It is advised to consult your doctor for any concerns.
Learn more about women’s health issues, here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.