Common Causes of Vaginal Itching and Burning

March 8th, 2024 | 7:02 am

Vaginal itching and burning are common symptoms that can be caused by several conditions, which might cause mild irritations to more serious health conditions. These conditions occur when the balance of the vagina is disrupted due to several infectious factors, such as yeast infections (candidiasis), bacterial vaginosis, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like chlamydia or genital herpes. Thus, leading to discomfort in the vaginal area, or simply as we call – vaginal itching and burning. 

Vaginal itching and burning is also caused due to non-infectious causes. These include – 

  • Hormonal changes including those occurring during menopause or pregnancy)
  • Allergic reactions to products like soaps, douches, or lubricants
  • Skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis

The itching and burning sensations can impact a woman’s comfort and quality of life. Thus, it requires proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Major Causes of Vaginal Itching and Burning

Here are seven potential causes of vaginal itching and burning: 

  • Yeast Infections

Yeast infections are caused by an over-growth of the fungus Candida albicans, which leads to intense itching, redness, and discharge. They usually happen after using antibiotics, as some components of antibiotics can disrupt the natural vaginal flora.

  • Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

BV can be caused due to imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina. Major symptoms include itching, burning, fishy odour, and grey discharge. It’s more likely to affect sexually active women.

  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and genital herpes can cause vaginal itching and burning. Major symptoms of STIs may also include sores, unusual discharge, and pain during intercourse. These must be consulted with a gynaecologist as some of the STIs are chronic conditions, and immediate medical attention might help. 

  • Chemical Irritants

Products such as soaps, bubble baths, detergents, and fabric softeners can irritate the vaginal area, which might cause itching and burning. Sometimes douches, which are actually meant to cleanse the vagina, might also cause irritation and dryness. Hence, it is advised to use fragrance-free products that help alleviate such discomfort. 

  • Menopause

Vaginal itching is also caused due to dryness. The decrease in estrogen levels during menopause can cause vaginal dryness and thinning of vaginal walls, known as vaginal atrophy. This dryness in and around the vaginal walls can cause itching, burning, and discomfort during sexual activity.

  • Allergic Reactions

Many women are allergic to condoms, spermicides, or other products. These products can trigger itching and burning, causing an allergic reaction. You can see redness, swelling, and irritation in the vaginal area as a result. 

  • Vulvovaginitis

Vulvovaginitis is inflammation of the vagina & vulva that result in discharge, itching, and pain. It is caused due to changes in the vaginal pH balance due to bacteria, infection, and reduced oestrogen levels after menopause. It affects women of all ages, and another name for this condition is vaginitis. 

  • Diabetes

Women with uncontrolled diabetes can lead to higher levels of glucose in the urine and vaginal secretions. This causes the growth of yeast in the vagina, which increases the risk of yeast infections. Hence causing symptoms like itching and burning.

Is There Any Treatments for Vaginal Itching and Burning?

Vaginal itching and burning must not be taken for granted, and women with such conditions must seek medical assistance at the earliest. During an initial consultation for vaginal itching and burning, the doctor will start by taking a walk through the medical history and asking about the symptoms, including their duration, severity, and any related factors (e.g., recent product use, sexual activity). 

Next, they will conduct a physical examination, which might include a pelvic exam. This is done to visually inspect the area for signs of infection or other conditions. They might also take samples for lab tests to identify any infections or imbalances. Depending on the finding of the results, the doctor will diagnose the condition. Remember, each cause of vaginal itching and burning has different treatment methods. 

However, we have mentioned a few treatment plans often recommended – 

  • Antifungal Medications: Doctors recommend OTC or prescription antifungal creams, ointments, or oral medications for yeast infections. You can also get these medications from the pharmacy. However, it is advised not to use any medications without consulting a doctor. 
  • Antibiotics: In case of bacterial vaginosis or an STI, doctors prescribe antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria causing itching and dryness. 
  • Hormonal Treatments: Hormonal treatments are mainly for postmenopausal women. They might experience vaginal dryness during menopause leading to irritation. Doctors mostly recommend topical estrogen therapy for such conditions.
  • Steroid Creams: Steroid creams are best to alleviate itching and inflammation caused by any such conditions conditions. As the vagina is a sensitive region of the body, low-strength steroid creams are usually recommended.
  • Lifestyle Changes & Home Remedies: Lifestyle changes can be the best at-home treatment plan for vaginal itching and burning. Doctors might recommend wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear, avoiding irritating soaps and products, practising good hygiene, and using unscented hygiene products to prevent further irritation.

Tips to Maintain Genital Hygiene to Prevent Vaginal Itching and Burning

Genital conditions can lead to several other health problems. Hence, it is advisable to maintain proper genital hygiene. Here are key steps to maintain genital hygiene and prevent vaginal itching and burning:

  • Use mild soap and water to clean your genital. 
  • Keep the area dry, as moist areas tend to grow yeast. 
  • Wear breathable clothing like cotton undergarments. 
  • Avoid irritants like perfumes or scented body lotion on your genitalia. 
  • Use condoms to practise safe sex to prevent STIs which are a major cause of vaginal infection. 
  • Change underwear daily, as wearing one underwear for a long time can cause bacteria and yeast growth. 

Also, it is advised for women to visit a gynaecologist for regular checkups that can help identify and treat any potential issues early on. 

Vaginal itching and burning can be caused due to certain conditions, such as bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and STDs, in addition to allergic reactions to lubricants, soaps, or laundry detergents. It is important to seek immediate medical attention in case of any mild or severe itching and burning, as it might cause severe discomfort. So, speak to your healthcare provider, who can help you alleviate the discomfort. 

Women must also be involved in self-care, such as maintaining good genital hygiene and avoiding irritants. However, proper medical intervention is important to address underlying conditions and prevent complications, ensuring vaginal health and comfort.