Vaginal Itching and Burning

Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on May 08, 2024
9 min read

Vaginal irritation is a feeling of itching or sensitivity in the vaginal area. In most cases, genital itching and irritation aren't major concerns. But sometimes, it might be caused by an infection or another problem.

Your vagina is shaped like a tube. It runs from your cervix to your labia, the skin folds at the vaginal opening. You can experience vaginal itchiness or irritation anywhere along the vagina and around the opening. Vaginal irritation or itching is fairly common and usually doesn’t need treatment. Often, it will go away on its own.

Itchy vaginal lips

The vaginal lips (labia) are part of the vulva, your external genitals. Your vaginal lips can become itchy for several reasons. It can be constant or it can come and go, depending on the cause.

A common cause of itchy vaginal lips is irritation from bath soaps, scented feminine hygiene products, and friction (rubbing) against pads or synthetic fabrics. If this is the case, the itching will likely stop when your vaginal lips are not exposed to them and may return if you start using them again.

Itchy cervix

If it feels like you're itchy at the top of your vagina near your cervix, this could be caused by inflammation, called cervicitis.

Vaginal burning

Depending on the cause, vaginal burning or itching can come and go or it can be constant. For example, if the burning is caused by douches, tampons, or latex condoms, the feeling should ease when the cause isn’t there any longer. But if the burning feeling is caused by an infection, such as a yeast infection, the sensation will stay or get worse until you get it treated.

Vulva redness and burning

Vulva redness and burning can be off-and-on or constant if it's caused by an infection. There's also a condition called vulvodynia, a type of pain in the vulvar area that has no explanation.

Vaginal itching and white discharge

Vaginal itching and white discharge caused by products such as soap, douches, and other hygiene products will be occasional and stop when you stop using the products. But if the feeling is constant and doesn’t go away, or if the white discharge gets worse or starts to smell, this could be a sign of an infection.

There are several common causes of vaginal itching, burning, and irritation.

Vaginal burning and itching

Infections (yeast, bacterial, and parasitic) are common causes of vaginal burning and itching:

Bacterial vaginosis. It's normal to have a healthy mix of bacteria in the vagina. However, the wrong bacteria growing there can lead to an infection. Besides itching, other symptoms that come with bacterial vaginosis are inflammation, burning, discharge, and a fishy-smelling odor.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, and other STIs can cause vaginal/vulvar itching and irritation and other symptoms.

Yeast infection (vaginal candidiasis). About 3 out of every 4 people assigned female at birth (AFAB) will develop a yeast infection at some point in their lives. Yeast infections occur when the yeast candida grows excessively in the vagina and vulva. Pregnancy, sex, antibiotics, and a weakened immune system can all make it more likely for a yeast infection to start. In addition to itching and irritation, a yeast infection will produce a thick, white, cheesy discharge.

Menopause. The drop in estrogen production that occurs at the end of someone's reproductive years can cause the vaginal walls to thin and dry out. This can lead to itching and irritation. The thinning of the vaginal walls is also a problem in some people who breastfeed.

Chemical irritants. Many chemical substances, including creams, douches, condoms, contraceptive foams, laundry detergents, soaps, scented toilet paper, and fabric softeners, can irritate the vagina and vulva.

Lichen sclerosus. This is a rare condition that causes thin white patches to form on the skin, especially around the vulva. The patches can permanently scar the vaginal area. Postmenopausal people are most likely to develop this condition.

Radiation therapy for cancer. Radiation therapy to the pelvic area can cause vaginal or vulvar irritation.

Vulvar itching that’s worse at night

If you’re sick or in pain, it’s common for it to feel worse at night when you’re trying to sleep. It's the same for vulvar itching. There’s a reason for that: your body acts differently at night.

  • Your core body temperature drops at night, and your body tries to warm up your extremities.
  • More blood circulates to your skin.
  • You lose moisture in your skin, making it drier.

But it’s not all physical. During the day, you might be busy or distracted, so the itching may not be as annoying, but as you’re trying to fall asleep, it becomes more noticeable.

Vaginal irritation without discharge

You can have irritation around your vaginal area without having any discharge. This is usually caused by using things such as dyed toilet paper, scented menstrual pads or tampons, bubble baths, and feminine cleansing products, or even wearing a wet bathing suit or swimming in a chlorinated pool.

Vaginal irritation after period

It’s not unusual to feel vaginal irritation after your period or beforehand. This could be related to the hormonal changes in your body as your uterus prepares to shed its lining and those after when it goes back to its pre-period state. 

Vaginal itching and burning during pregnancy

Pregnancy can cause a lot of uncomfortable issues, including vaginal itching and burning. This could be due to the usual issues or changes in the vaginal wall.

Menopause vaginal itching and burning

A common complaint during menopause is vaginal dryness, which can lead to itching and burning. This is caused by vaginal atrophy, the degeneration of the vaginal walls.

Vaginal irritation from soap

You can develop contact dermatitis in your vulvar area and around the labia at the opening of the vagina. This can cause irritation and itching.

Vaginal itching after shaving

The skin in your vulvar area, including around the opening of the vagina, is very sensitive. If you choose to shave the area, it can become irritated and cause itching. This should go away after a while as long as you don’t irritate the skin any further.

Vaginal itching and STDs and STIs

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), now called sexually transmitted infections (STIs), can cause vaginal itching. The one that usually causes vaginal itching is trichomoniasis. Other STIs usually cause more vaginal pain than itching.

Vaginal irritation will often get better on its own. But if the irritation continues, is severe, or comes back after treatment, visit your doctor. The doctor can do a pelvic exam. The doctor will probably also take a sample of the discharge to find the source of the problem.

How vaginal discomfort is treated depends on what's causing the problem:

  • Bacterial vaginosis and bacterial STIs are treated with antibiotics.
  • Trichomoniasis is treated with an antiparasitic drug.
  • Yeast infections are treated with antifungal medications. They are inserted into the vagina in the form of creams, ointments, or suppositories, or they are taken orally. If you've never been diagnosed with a yeast infection, see your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medication.
  • Menopause-related itching may be treated with estrogen cream, tablets, or a vaginal moisturizer.
  • Other types of itching and irritation may ease with steroid creams or lotions, which reduce inflammation. A prescription-strength steroid cream may ease the irritation caused by lichen sclerosus.

You can find plenty of home remedies for vaginal itching online. Before you try them out, consider the following tips:

Coconut oil. Some people may suggest using coconut oil for vaginal itching. There are no studies that have shown that this is an effective way to ease vaginal itching, but it may be helpful for vulvar itching. It can give you a barrier on your skin that may help reduce irritation. However, don't insert it into your vagina because it could cause more irritation.

Apple cider vinegar. Like coconut oil, many internet sites recommend apple cider vinegar to help relieve vaginal or vulvar itching. There is little proof that this actually works.

Baking soda. Baking soda soaks may help relieve vulvar itching, which includes around the vaginal opening. Soak one to three times a day in warm water with 4-5 tablespoons of baking soda. You can use a sitz bath instead, adding 1-2 teaspoons of baking soda to the water.

Other vaginal itching home remedies

  • Avoid scented pads or toilet paper, creams, bubble baths, hygiene sprays, and douches.
  • Use water and a plain, unscented soap to regularly clean your external genital area. But don't wash more than once a day. Doing so can increase dryness.
  • Always wipe from front to back after having a bowel movement.
  • Wear cotton panties (no synthetic fabrics) and change your underwear every day.
  • Change the diapers of infant girls regularly.
  • Use condoms during sex to help prevent STIs.
  • If you have vaginal dryness, use a vaginal moisturizer. Apply a water-based lubricant (K-Y, Astroglide) before having sex.
  • Avoid sex until your symptoms improve.
  • Don't scratch -- you can further irritate the area.

If you are experiencing vaginal itching or other discomfort in your genital area, don’t be embarrassed to speak with a doctor or other health care professional. It’s a common problem that can usually be solved with some treatment. Most vaginal itching does go away on its own, but there are some situations that warrant a doctor’s visit:

  • Children who are under 10 years old, as this could be a sign of sexual abuse
  • If you're postmenopausal
  • If you notice a change in the usual vaginal discharge in color, amount, or odor, especially during pregnancy
  • If there's reason to believe there is a chance of an STD/STI or if your symptoms start after you have sex with a new partner

Vaginal itching and itching or irritation around the vulvar area are very common. The discomfort often goes away on its own, especially if it’s caused by issues such as using scented feminine hygiene products or rubbing against wet or synthetic products. If the itching is caused by an infection, treatment with antibiotics, antifungals, or an antiparasitic usually will help get rid of it.

Can sperm cause vaginal itching?

People can be allergic to sperm, but it's rare. When someone is allergic to sperm, it can cause vaginal itching.

How do I stop the itching down there?

It depends on what's causing it. You may need to ask yourself some questions to help you figure out the cause. Did you start using a new scented hygiene or menstrual product? Were you sitting around in a wet bathing suit? Did you shave your vulvar area? Could you have an infection? Once you know what is causing the itching, you can remove the cause or see your doctor for a prescription to treat the infection.

What does vaginitis look like?

Symptoms of vaginitis include:

  • A change in how your usual vaginal discharge smells or looks, and there is usually more of it
  • Vaginal itching
  • Vaginal irritation
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Painful urination, such as in case of a urinary tract infection
  • Spotting or light vaginal bleeding

What is the best cream for itching down there?

You should ask your doctor before using a cream in your genital area. You should not put any cream in your vagina. Some doctors recommend a low-dose corticosteroid cream for the vulvar area but only for a short period. If you’ve been diagnosed with lichen sclerosus, your doctor may give you a prescription-strength corticosteroid cream or ointment.