If you're experiencing a hot, burning sensation around your vulva, then you're likely keen to know what the hell is up. (Quick note on definitions: this term refers to the part of your genitals you can see. You might be tempted to refer to this area as your 'vagina', but, strictly speaking this is the canal that runs up to your cervix – and is firmly out of sight.)
If you are concerned about burning or pain in your vulva or vaginal area, speak to your GP
Is a burning sensation a sign of infection?
It certainly can be. Burning is a key symptom of vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis – read on for more details.
Which STD gives you a burning sensation?
While 70% of women do not experience symptoms from the STI chlamydia, some get a burning sensation when they wee.
What causes vaginal burning?
Aside from these, according to gynaecologist Dr Tania Adib, there’s a weighty 12 possible reasons behind your burning vagina or vulva – keep scrolling to get cued up. And, as ever, if you're worried about any sort of symptom, head to your GP and get checked out.
12 reasons for your burning vulva or vagina
1. Workout gear
Turns out your healthy day-to-day set-up could actually be the cause of your burning vagina. Yes, really. Too busy to shower post-sweat-sesh? Living in your workout gear? This can all be an irritant to your vaginal pH and result in burning.
2. Scented products
Using scented liners and tampons, or a minty shower gel down there? These can be an irritant to the vaginal pH and result in burning.
'If your vagina is being irritated by a product, stop using it and switch to an alternative that doesn’t cause discomfort,' says Dr Adib.
3. Intimate wipes
Much like the above, these can throw off the PH of the area. 'And remember that the vagina is self-cleaning. Glands in the vagina produce normal secretions, including discharge, which helps to cleanse the vagina, get rid of bacteria and provide natural lubrication,' says says Dr Adib.
4. A skin condition
It’s also worth remembering that skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis can make the skin itchy – and too much scratching can lead to burning. If you’re worried that a skin condition may have spread to your vulva, seek medical advice.
Early menopause affects 110,000 women under the age of 40. That’s around one in every 1,000 women in their 30s – not including those women for whom the condition goes undiagnosed.
And menopause symptoms aren’t limited to a loss of libido and fertility.
'When the tissues become dry, as a result of the reduction in oestrogen levels,' says Adib. 'Women can experience terrible vagina burning, as well as discomfort and itching. Other related symptoms are painful intercourse and burning when passing urine.'
The solution? Combat vaginal dryness with an oestrogen replacement such as a topical cream, a vaginal moisturiser or the vaginal laser, MonaLsa Touch, suggests Dr Adib.
As if. But yes, don’t drink enough H2O day-to-day and your vagina is not going to thank you for it. In addition to these ten dehydration symptoms, you can add a burning vagina to the list.
It makes sense when you think about it.
'Hydration is an important factor when it comes to maintaining good intimate health,' says Dr Adib.
'When you urinate, you flush out any toxins and bad bacteria from the body. If you’re unable to flush these toxins out [for example, by not drinking enough water], you’re more like to get discomfort and an infection.'
'Vulvodynia causes burning, stinging, soreness, rawness, throbbing and painful intercourse,' says Dr Adib. 'The condition is complex, so it’s best to discuss such symptoms with a gynaecologist.'
8. Bacterial vaginosis
According to Canesten Intimate Health, 52% of you don’t have a clue what bacterial vaginosis – or BV, for short – is. But, one thing’s for sure, if you’ve got it and you’re one of the 50% who experiences symptoms, you’re going to know about it.
'Vaginal infections such as BV cause a burning vagina plus a white or grey discharge and fishy odour,' says Adib. 'This can be simply treated using pessaries.'
This yeast infection will affect 75% of you at least once in your lives; for 45%, it’s a regular unwanted occurrence. And with thrush comes that tell-tale burning vagina symptom. Plus itching and redness.
'In some cases, thrush may go away on its own; however, it may take time,' says Adib. 'It is best to get your symptoms checked out.'
10. Genital herpes
STI symptoms in women are varied. But when it comes to a burning vagina, this could be a warning sign that you're harbouring genital herpes – your nether region’s equivalent of a cold sore. The condition can cause vaginal burning and blisters, which may also make it painful to urinate.
'It is important to get this treated with the correct medication,' Adib says. If you think this is you, hot foot it to your nearest sexual health clinic or GP.
This STI can be asymptomatic, but some people experience a burning sensation when they wee, when they are infected. Head to your GP or sexual health clinic if you think you might have the infection – getting it treated rapidly is key, to prevent it causing more serious health issues, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to problems with fertility.
Technically, this isn’t really a burning vagina at all – after all UTIs affect the urinary tract (bladder, urethra and kidneys). But, because the urethra and vagina are so close together in the body, it can feel like your vagina is on fire.
The main culprit in question? Cystitis. 'One of the most common symptoms of this is a burning sensation when passing urine,' Dr Adib says. You will also likely need to go to the toilet more frequently and may find your pee is cloudy and smelly. The solution? 'Antibiotics are very effective,' Adib says. Again, your GP can hook you up with those.
A word on tight clothes
Much as spending the day in your gym gear can potentially cause a burning sensation, so too can other tight, fitted clothes – including tights and underwear that digs in. If you suspect these could be the culprit, try not wearing them for a few days and see if the situation improves.
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