Vaginal dryness and painful sex are increasingly being recognized as common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. But if you're experiencing vaginal burning, you might be wondering whether that symptom is also considered to be typical.
Turns out that it very well may be. You may not realize it, but vaginal dryness can cause irritation that may be perceived as vaginal burning or itching, both in the years leading up to menopause and afterwards. And it's more common than you might think. Research has shown that around 50% of women may experience vaginal burning during postmenopause.1
Vaginal burning is often related to vaginal dryness, which can stem from hormone shifts and declines experienced during the menopause transition. But that's not always the case. Read on to learn more about why this symptom happens, what might be causing it, and how to manage any discomfort you may be experiencing.
Why Can Menopause Cause Vaginal Burning?
Vaginal burning is a symptom that typically stems from vaginal atrophy, where declines in the hormone estrogen can cause a woman's vaginal tissue to become drier, thinner, and less elastic. It can become noticeable during perimenopause and may persist in the years after a woman has reached menopause.2,3
Vaginal atrophy can decrease a woman's natural vaginal lubrication, as well as cause the vaginal canal to become shorter and narrower and the vaginal opening to tighten. Both of these factors can contribute to feelings of burning, soreness, itching, or irritation.
Vaginal burning can also stem from conditions that, while not directly related to menopause, may be more common in peri- and postmenopausal women. These include bacterial infections like vaginitis, urinary tract conditions, like irritable bladder syndrome or prolapsed bladder, and vaginismus, or involuntary muscle spasms of the muscles at the vaginal opening.4
Symptoms Tied to Vaginal Burning
Because vaginal burning is tied to other conditions, it usually occurs alongside other symptoms. If you’re experiencing vaginal burning you might also notice:5,6
- Vaginal dryness
- Dryness, sensitivity, or irritation around your vulva, such as discomfort when you put on your underwear
- Painful sex
- Increased urinary frequency
- Repeated urinary tract infections
- Increased vaginal discharge, foul odor, or swelling (if the burning is from an infection)
What is Vulvodynia and How Does it Relate to Vaginal Burning?
Less often, the sensation of vaginal burning may be tied to something called vulvodynia, or vulvar pain that’s not caused by a specific infection, skin disorder, or other medical condition, that persists for three months or longer. It occurs in approximately 3% to 15% of women and can happen during a woman's reproductive years, during perimenopause, or after menopause.7
Women with vulvodynia say the condition causes a raw, burning, or stinging sensation that may feel like it’s vaginal, but only affects the vulva. Some people have constant symptoms; for others, their symptoms may come and go. The condition is usually managed with lifestyle changes and/or medication.8
Treatment Options for Vaginal Burning During Menopause
Managing vaginal burning usually means treating the underlying cause. If the problem stems from vaginal atrophy or dryness, over-the-counter moisturizers or lubricants are a good place to start.9
- Vaginal moisturizers add more moisture to your vaginal tissue over time. They're typically meant to be used daily, or every few days to help your tissues stay more hydrated, which in turn, can help to reduce symptoms. Look for products containing hyaluronic acid, like Bonafide’s Revaree® , which has been shown to improve vaginal atrophy symptoms, including burning and itching, in as little as 9 days.
- Vaginal lubricants are typically used as a more “in-the-moment” option and can decrease dryness, pain, or burning that occurs during sex or insertion. They can be used in addition to a vaginal moisturizer if you're sexually active. Experts typically recommend using a water- or silicone-based lubricant, since petroleum-based products can be irritating and any oil containing product can degrade condom integrity.
- Estrogen creams, tablets, or rings deliver a low dose of estrogen to your vaginal tissue, which can help reduce dryness and accompanying symptoms like burning or irritation. These deliver localized estrogen rather than systemic, like hormone replacement therapy.
Bonafide's Hormone-free Solution for Vaginal Dryness
Revaree® is a hormone-free, hyaluronic acid-based solution designed to address vaginal dryness and associated symptoms of burning, irritation and painful sex.
When to Seek Help for Vaginal Burning
Vaginal burning may not be an uncommon symptom, but it doesn't have to be a guaranteed part of your perimenopause or menopause experience. Let your healthcare provider know if you’re experiencing burning or other vaginal symptoms such as dryness, painful sex, itching, increased urination, or signs of an infection, like discharge or odor. Together, you can determine what's causing your vaginal burning and come up with a treatment plan to manage your symptoms.