Read below about vaginal rash, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your vaginal rash from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Vaginal Rash Symptoms

The vagina is actually an internal part of the female reproductive tract and cannot be seen from the outside. However, it's become common for the entire female genital area to be referred to as the vagina, and so the term "vaginal rash" usually means a rash on the vulva — the folds of skin immediately surrounding the outer entrance to the vagina itself. Some rashes can spread throughout the pubic hair and into the lower abdomen or inner thighs as well. The genital region of both men and women is also called the pubic region.

Characteristics

Vaginal rashes usually present with the following characteristics [1,2]:

  • Swollen, reddened , irritated skin: This may be immediately surrounding the entrance to the vagina and/or spread over the vulva.
  • Red or white bumps: These may be itchy and sore and have a discharge.
  • Vaginal discharge: This may be irritating, itchy, and/or foul-smelling.
  • Pain during urination
  • Pain during sexual activity

Who is most likely to be affected?

Women who are most likely to be affected include women who are sexually active, as well as women who are not necessarily sexually active but have certain lifestyle habits. This includes women who [2]:

  • Have new partners
  • Have multiple partners
  • Do not always practice safe sex
  • Wear very tight clothes that may irritate the vaginal area
  • Might be allergic to soap, laundry detergent, or lotion being used
  • May need to improve hygiene, including a thorough rinsing

Is it serious?

Vaginal rashes can vary in severity, described below.

  • Not serious: If the rash is mild and clears up quickly on its own, it was probably just a temporary irritation.
  • Moderately serious: Even a mild rash that spreads, seems to get worse, or keeps recurring should be treated by your medical provider.
  • Serious: A rash that is painful, has a discharge, has sores or bumps, and is accompanied by burning urination must be seen by a medical provider as soon as possible. These are common symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases.

Vaginal Rash Causes Overview

Many conditions can cause the symptom of a vaginal rash. We've listed several different causes here, in approximate order from most to least common [2,3]:

Yeast infection

A yeast infection is a common cause of vaginal rashes [4].

  • A yeast infection is caused by the yeast organism Candida. Yeast is actually a subclass of fungus, which is why a yeast infection is sometimes referred to as a fungal infection.
  • A yeast infection can be transmitted through sexual contact, but it is not considered to be a sexually transmitted disease since there are many other ways to come into contact with Candida.

Sexually transmitted diseases

These are conditions that are transmitted only through sexual contact and include:

  • Viral diseases
  • Bacterial diseases
  • Protozoan-caused diseases

Allergic reactions

These can sometimes cause severe symptoms, especially in and near the mucous membranes surrounding the vagina. Some allergens include:

  • Latex condoms
  • Spermicidal creams
  • Lubricants that may not be intended for sexual activity

Irritation from shaving

Shaving the sensitive skin of the pubic region to remove hair can be very irritating and lead to ingrown hairs and itchy rashes.

Parasites

These are very small, sometimes microscopic, organisms that can live in the skin and hair of the pubic region. Most are not considered sexually transmitted diseases because there are other ways to come into contact with them, but parasites can still be contracted through sexual activity.

Vaginal dryness

Vaginal dryness during sex, which can cause irritation, abrasion, and sometimes secondary infection when bacteria enter through the broken skin.

We've listed some specific conditions that can cause a vaginal rash, along with how to identify each of them:

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Vaginal Rash

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced vaginal rash. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Irritant Contact Dermatitis of the Vagina

    Contact irritant dermatitis of the vagina occurs when there is an irritant of some sort that causes damage to the skin. The irritation is often caused by friction or chemicals.

    Will resolve when irritant is removed.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal itch or burning, vulvovaginal redness, vaginal discharge, urinary changes
    Symptoms that always occur with irritant contact dermatitis of the vagina:
    vaginal itch or burning
    Symptoms that never occur with irritant contact dermatitis of the vagina:
    urinary changes, vaginal discharge
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Yeast Infection

    Yeast infections are caused by a fungus called "Candida." Candida is the scientific name for yeast that lives almost everywhere, including in the human body. Typically, our immune system keeps it under control, but if you take antibiotics or gets sick, the fungus can multiply and cause an infection. In this case, it is happening in the vagina.

    50% of women have relapses within 2 months, and 9% have more than 4 episodes per year. For those, maintenance therapy is possible.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal itch or burning, white/gray vaginal discharge, thick vaginal discharge, vaginal pain, vulvovaginal redness
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Perianal Skin Infection

    Perianal Dermatitis is caused by some irritant or allergen that causes the area around the anus to be burning/stinging.

    Resolves after removing irritant

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    rectal bleeding, rectal pain, anal itching, itchy rash, red rash
    Symptoms that always occur with perianal skin infection:
    rash, red rash, rash
    Urgency:
    Wait and watch

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  4. 4.Genital Herpes

    Genital herpes is caused by a common viral infection that is sexually transmitted. The virus can lay dormant for months after exposure, causing itching and rash on the inner thighs or genitals. Some people carry the virus, but have no symptoms for their entire lives.

    Infection with herpes simplex virus cannot be cured, but there are many effective treatments to manage symptoms

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    symptoms of infection, fatigue, muscle aches, fever, penis pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Non - Specific Dermatitis (Skin Inflammation)

    Dermatitis is the inflammation ("-itis") of the skin ("derma" is a layer of the skin). It can be caused by any number of causes, from allergies to infections to autoimmune issues. Dermatitis of Normal Variation (also called, "NOS") means that all of those other causes of your rash have been ruled out. This is very common.

    1-2 days

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    red rash, itchy rash, painful rash
    Symptoms that always occur with non-specific dermatitis (skin inflammation):
    red rash
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  6. 6.Ringworm (Tinea Corporis)

    Tinea Corporis is a common fungal infection of the skin. This rash is sometimes called "ringworm" and results in ring-shaped redness that is often itchy.

    With treatment, the rash should resolve within 2-3 weeks

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    dry skin, rash, red rash, itchy rash, curved rash
    Symptoms that never occur with ringworm (tinea corporis):
    groin skin changes, fever, scrotal itch, groin itch, facial skin changes, hand skin changes, genital skin changes
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  7. 7.Sebaceous Hyperplasia

    Sebaceous hyperplasia is a common, benign condition of sebaceous glands in adults of middle age or older. Lesions can be single or multiple and manifest as yellowish, soft, small papules on the face (particularly nose, cheeks, and forehead).

    Resolves with treatment

    Rarity:
    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    constant skin changes, curved rash, cheek skin changes, skin-colored rash, nose skin changes
    Symptoms that always occur with sebaceous hyperplasia:
    constant skin changes
    Symptoms that never occur with sebaceous hyperplasia:
    fever
    Urgency:
    Wait and watch

Vaginal Rash Treatments and Relief

Treatments for vaginal rash may vary depending on the severity of your symptoms. However, treatment can begin at home in less severe cases.

At-home treatments

Certain at-home remedies that may be helpful in relieving your rash include [5]:

  • Practice good hygiene: This can be done with a daily bath or shower and rinsing thoroughly. After a bowel movement, always wipe from front to back to avoid contaminating the vaginal area.
  • Do not shave pubic hair with a razor: Either trim with scissors or use a hair-removal cream specially made for this area.
  • Looser pants: Wear pants that fit well and are not too tight.
  • Use hypoallergenic lubricants: You should also only use those that are specifically made for sexual activity.
  • Practice safe sex: Always do this, especially if you have new or multiple partners.

Medical treatments

You should seek care from a physician for the following:

  • Painful, itchy vaginal discharge and rash: It is important to have this tested in the event it is a sexually transmitted disease so that treatment can begin right away.
  • Pain and burning on urination: This is either with or without any other vaginal symptoms. This may be a symptom of a urinary tract infection and/or a sexually transmitted disease, and either way will need specific treatment.
  • Vaginal pain and burning during sexual activity

Seek immediate treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if the following occur

You should seek attention if you have a fever along with severe pain and vaginal discharge, especially if you suspect you may be pregnant.

FAQs About Vaginal Rash

Here are some frequently asked questions about vaginal rash.

Are all vaginal rashes sexually transmitted diseases?

No. There are some vaginal rashes, such as a yeast infection, that can be transmitted through sexual contact but are also spread in other ways. However, any vaginal rash can be a symptom of an actual STD. If there is any question, it is important to be tested and find out for sure so that treatment can begin.

Why is the female partner sometimes affected while the male partner is not?

If the vaginal rash is not caused by a sexually transmitted disease but is instead a simple yeast infection or a possible allergy, it will rarely affect the male partner. If both the male and the female partners have similar symptoms, then the condition is more likely to be an STD.

Can athlete's foot cause a yeast infection?

Both are caused by a fungus, but different types of fungus. Athlete's foot can be caused by any of several fungi belonging to Trichophyton, Epidermophyton, and Microsporum. A yeast infection is caused by the yeast organism Candida albicans. However, yeast does belong to a subgroup of fungus and this is why the two conditions are sometimes confused.

Can a UTI cause a vaginal rash?

A UTI, or urinary tract infection, is most often caused by E. coli or other bacteria. A vaginal rash is usually caused by other bacteria, by a virus, or by a fungal infection. However, a condition called bacterial vaginosis (BV) occurs when many types of harmful bacteria colonize the vagina. This, in turn, can lead to a urinary tract infection [6].

Is a vaginal rash dangerous during pregnancy?

A yeast infection is not dangerous to a pregnancy, though it can be uncomfortable [7]. However, bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a risk factor for miscarriage and premature birth even though it is not an STD. Some STDs can cause serious harm to a pregnancy, which is why any vaginal rash must be tested so that treatment can begin right away.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Vaginal Rash

  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.What color is the skin change?
  • Q.Are there bumps on your rash?
  • Q.Is your rash raised or rough when you run your hand over the area of skin?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our vaginal rash symptom checker to find out more.

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Vaginal Rash Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced vaginal rash have also experienced:

    • 21% Vaginal Itch or Burning
    • 16% Vaginal Discharge
    • 7% Yellow Pus Vaginal Discharge
  • People who have experienced vaginal rash had symptoms persist for:

    • 29% Over a Month
    • 27% Less Than a Week
    • 25% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced vaginal rash were most often matched with:

    • 50% Irritant Contact Dermatitis of the Vagina
    • 50% Yeast Infection
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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References

  1. Vulva & Vaginal Irritation. Jean Hailes. Updated September 19, 2017. Jean Hailes Link
  2. Burd I. Vulvovaginitis - Overview. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated October 1, 2018. MedlinePlus Link
  3. Blahd WH, Husney A, Romito K, eds. Vaginal Rashes and Sores. University of Michigan: Michigan Medicine. Updated November 20, 2017. UofM Health Link
  4. Vaginal Yeast Infections (Candidiasis). Center for Young Women's Health. Updated September 19, 2017. Young Women's Health Link
  5. Barad DH. Vaginal Itching and Discharge. Merck Manual Professional Version. Updated September 2018. Merck Manual Professional Version Link
  6. Blahd WH, Husney A, Romito K, eds. Female Genital Problems and Injuries. University of Michigan: Michigan Medicine. Updated November 20, 2017. UofM Health Link
  7. Yeast Infections During Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association. Updated August 22, 2017. American Pregnancy Association Link