There are multiple causes of vaginal pain, including infection, irritation or trauma. Learn how to cure vaginal pain by understanding causes and relief options.
Symptoms of vaginal pain
Vaginal pain can be due to a variety of causes. Something as simple as irritation from shaving or soreness after sexual intercourse can cause vaginal pain symptoms. Various infections, including urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause vaginal pain as well.
Some causes of vaginal pain symptoms can be treated or prevented at home by following some basic hygiene instructions. Yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter medications. Other causes of vaginal pain, including all sexually transmitted infections, will need to be evaluated and treated by a doctor. The risk of sexually transmitted infections can be greatly reduced by the proper use of condoms.
Common accompanying symptoms of vaginal pain
If you're experiencing vaginal pain, it's likely to also experience:
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Causes of vaginal pain
There are multiple causes of vaginal pain, including infection, irritation, or trauma. Viral and bacterial infections, whether sexually transmitted or not, can cause lesions, pain, discharge, or itching. Yeast infections and urinary tract infections may also cause vaginal pain. Irritation from shaving, hygiene products, or vaginal dryness can lead to pain as well. Less commonly, vaginal pain symptoms are due to trauma or a vaginal pain syndrome.
Vaginal pain may be caused by the following infections.
- Viral infections: Certain viruses can cause vaginal infection and pain. Many of these viruses are sexually transmitted. Some viruses can cause lesions or blisters on the outside of the vagina which can be very painful.
- Bacterial infections: Some bacterial infections can cause vaginal pain symptoms. Some bacterial infections, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, are sexually transmitted. Others, like bacterial vaginosis are not sexually transmitted.
- Yeast infections: Yeast infections are a common cause of vaginal discomfort or pain. They often present with itching and vaginal discharge.
- Urinary tract infections: Bacteria can spread to the urinary tract and cause infection in the urethra. This can cause pain in the urethra and surrounding area, particularly pain or burning with urination.
Causes related to irritation of the vagina may be related to the following.
- Post-menopausal: After menopause the natural lubrication in the vagina decreases. This can cause vaginal dryness, resulting in irritation or pain.
- Topical irritation: Many things can irritate the external part of the vagina and cause pain, including shaving, soaps or lotions, and feminine hygiene products.
Other causes of vaginal pain may be related to the following.
- Pain syndromes: Vaginal pain syndromes are a less common cause of vaginal pain. Typically, they present with pain during sexual intercourse or vaginal penetration.
- Trauma: Any trauma to the vagina or the surrounding area can lead to pain. Sometimes, women experience pain or soreness after sex.
- Postpartum: It is common for women to experience vaginal pain or soreness after delivering a baby.
This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
Yeast infections are due to alterations in the balance of microscopic organisms in the vulvar and vaginal regions. The term "yeast infection" is most commonly used to describe symptoms caused by the fungus Candida albicans.
Symptoms include itching of the vaginal and vulva, burning, redness..
Bartholin duct abscess
The Bartholin gland sits in the outer part of the vagina and produces fluid that lubricates it. A Bartholin duct abscess is caused by a blockage in the gland and a bacterial infection within the fluid that builds up.
Top Symptoms: vaginal pain, painful sex, bump on the outer part of the vagina, painful vagina lump, small vagina lump
Symptoms that always occur with bartholin duct abscess: bump on the outer part of the vagina, vaginal pain
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Lichen sclerosus is chronic skin condition in which a person forms patches of white, wrinkly, thin skin, often described as being like "cigarette paper." Most people with this condition will experience it on their anus and genital regions, and some will experience it on other parts of their body.
The primary symptom of lichen sclerosus is the presence of skin changes as well as bruising, bleeding, inflammation, itching and pain in the affected areas.
The condition slowly progresses over time without treatment. Lichen sclerosus is benign but can cause significant discomfort and disfigurement. Treatment options include topical and oral medications, phototherapy, and circumcision in men to remove damaged skin.
Top Symptoms: vaginal itch or burning, vaginal pain, painful sex, dry skin on the outside of the vagina, painful urination
Urgency: Primary care doctor
A Bartholin cyst is a fluid-filled mass that can develop near the opening of the vagina. They can be painful or painless and are caused by a buildup of fluid in a small gland near the vaginal canal.
Symptoms predominantly include the presence of a painless bump near the vaginal opening as well...
Vulvar cancer is a cancer of the outer portion of the female genitalia.
Top Symptoms: vaginal discharge, vaginal itch or burning, vaginal pain, painful urination, vagina lump
Urgency: Primary care doctor
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Vaginal pain treatments and relief
At-home treatment and prevention
The best ways to manage or prevent vaginal pain can begin at home. Consider the following options.
- Hygiene: Use gentle, fragrance-free soaps on the outside of the vagina and avoid using products inside the vagina. Avoid douching. Avoid shaving if it irritates the surrounding skin.
- Over-the-counter medications: Yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter medication. However, if you are unsure of the cause of your symptoms, see a doctor who can diagnose the problem.
- STI prevention: Use condoms to prevent transmission of sexually transmitted infections.
When to see a doctor
If your vaginal pain worsens or persists, you should see your doctor. He or she may recommend the following.
- Antibiotics: If your symptoms are due to a bacterial infection, like bacterial vaginosis, a urinary tract infection, or gonorrhea or chlamydia, a doctor will prescribe an antibiotic.
- Other medication: There are various topical and oral medications that can help with vaginal dryness. If you have a viral infection, a doctor might prescribe antivirals.
- Referral to a specialist: If a doctor suspects that you have a vaginal pain syndrome, they may refer you to a specialist who diagnoses and treats this condition.
When it is an emergency
If you have severe vaginal pain, seek treatment right away.
Questions your doctor may ask about vaginal pain
- Have you ever had a yeast infection?
- Do you feel pain when you urinate?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.
Female, 27. Just yesterday, I was just experimenting with tampons, trying to find ways to get comfortable.
Unfortunately, without thinking, I used petroleum jelly as I read somewhere where vaseline helps with tampon friction. I made several attempts with tampon insertions and removal.
Now, I am afraid I hurt myself badly. I could be on the verge of getting an infection from the jelly and multiple attempts that have caused tearing.
What can I do to self-treat at home since I have no insurance?
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- Jobling P, O'Hara K, Hua S. Female reproductive tract pain: targets, challenges, and outcomes. Front Pharmacol. 2014;5:17. Published Feb. 13, 2014. NCBI Link
- Heim LJ. Evaluation of Differential Diagnosis of Dyspareunia. Am Fam Physician. 2001 Apr 15;63(8):1535-1545. AAFP Link
- Vaginal Symptoms. healthychildren.org. healthychildren.org Link
- Urinary Tract Infection - Female. Seattle Children's. Updated Nov. 3, 2018. Seattle Children's Link