Symptoms A-Z

Vaginal Rash Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand your vaginal rash symptoms, including 7 causes & common questions.

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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

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:

7 Possible Vaginal Rash Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced vaginal rash. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

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.

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

Yeast infection

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...

Perianal skin infection

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

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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Genital herpes

Genital herpes, or herpes simplex virus 2 infection, is a sexually transmitted disease that causes incurable sores in the genital and rectal areas. The disease is caused by the HSV-2 virus.

Most susceptible are women, as the virus is more easily transmitted from men to women during sex. However, many people carry HSV-2 but are never diagnosed.

  • The virus can be transmitted during sex even by a person with no symptoms.

When present, symptoms include small, painful, blister-like lesions on the genitals and rectum; flu-like symptoms of fever, headache, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes. Before blisters appear, there may be pain and tinging at the site of the outbreak.

HSV-2 cannot be cured, but can be managed to help ease the symptoms and prevent further spread. The virus can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her baby during the birth process, and anyone with herpes simplex is especially vulnerable to HIV.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and fluid samples from active lesions.

Treatment involves antiviral medication and always practicing safe sex.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: symptoms of infection, fatigue, muscle aches, fever, penis pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Non-specific dermatitis (skin inflammation)

Nonspecific dermatitis, or contact dermatitis, simply means inflammation of the skin from many different causes.

Most nonspecific dermatitis is caused by skin contact with a substance that provokes a reaction, which could be anything from plants to soap to jewelry to fabrics. Some may be due to an autoimmune condition, where the body's immune system attacks itself.

Risk factors include a family or personal history of allergies, asthma, or other condition which weakens the immune system; or constant contact with metals, plant life, or chemicals.

Symptoms commonly include red, swollen skin rash with itching, blistering, or oozing, which may become painful and infected.

Dermatitis itself is not contagious but can interfere with quality of life. A medical provider can help with managing the symptoms.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and sometimes skin biopsy and patch testing.

Treatment involves using protective measures if the substances cannot be avoided; making nutritional improvements to strengthen the immune system; using corticosteroid or other creams; and phototherapy.

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

Ringworm (tinea corporis)

Tinea corporis means "ringworm that affects the body." It is caused by a fungus, not an actual worm, on the surface of the skin. It is also called dermatophytosis.

Ringworm is very contagious through direct contact and through shared clothing, bedding, shower floors, locker rooms, etc. A person showing no symptoms can still spread ringworm. It is also transferred between humans and animals, especially dogs, cats, and horses.

Most susceptible are those with weakened immune systems, though anyone can contract ringworm.

Symptoms include an itchy, circular red rash that spreads outward and grows larger. It may form a pattern of rings on the arms, legs, and/or body.

Treatment is important in order to prevent further spread of the disease, and to ease the discomfort. The rash itself can become infected from constant scratching.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and skin culture.

Treatment involves anti-fungal medications applied to the skin, and sometimes a course of prescription anti-fungal pills.

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

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).

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

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

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

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your vaginal rash

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 were most often matched with:

  • 50% Irritant Contact Dermatitis Of The Vagina
  • 50% Yeast Infection

People who have experienced vaginal rash had symptoms persist for:

  • 29% Over a month
  • 27% Less than a week
  • 25% Less than a day

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Vaginal Rash Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your vaginal rash

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

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.