December 14, 2022
Blogs

Vaginal rash: symptoms and treatment

All HOMED-IQ content is reviewed by medical specialists

The itching, burning, and redness from a rash is uncomfortable anywhere on your body, but may be particularly concerning if it occurs in or around the vagina. Vaginal rashes are fairly common, and the cause is often not serious. However, it can be difficult to determine what is triggering the rash, and certain conditions may require further testing or treatment. Curious about the different causes of vaginal rash and how they are treated? Read on for more information.

Symptoms of vaginal rash

Common symptoms of vaginal rash are:

  • Itching, burning, or irritation
  • Redness or swelling
  • Discoloration of the skin
  • Bumps, lesions, or sores
  • Patches of thickened skin
  • Pain during urination or sex
  • Changes in vaginal discharge
  • Pain in your pelvic area

Causes of vaginal rash

Several skin conditions and STIs can cause a vaginal rash. No matter the cause, a rash around the vagina can be annoying, uncomfortable, or worrying, and determining the cause is key to resolving it quickly. If you have a vaginal rash and are unsure what the cause is, make an appointment with your doctor.

Vaginal rash from eczema

Eczema is a skin condition that causes dry, itchy, scaly, and inflamed skin. This condition can also affect the vaginal area in women. If you have eczema in the genital area, speak to your doctor about what products to use. Specialized moisturizers or topical steroids may be prescribed for the area (National Eczema Society, 2021). Avoiding tight clothing and wearing cotton underwear may also help prevent irritation.

Vaginal rash from lichen sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus is a non-contagious skin condition that causes patchy, thin skin in the genital, breast, or upper arm area. This condition primarily affects postmenopausal women, women with autoimmune conditions, and sometimes men (Mayo Clinic, 2022). The cause of lichen sclerosus is not known, but it is believed to be a combination of genetics, an overactive immune system, and previous skin irritation. Some people have mild lichen sclerosus with few symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they usually affect the labia and anus, causing itching, burning, discoloration of the skin, or pain during sex. Lichen sclerosus is treatable with medicated ointments prescribed by a doctor. With treatment, symptoms usually improve or go away.

Vaginal rash from contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a condition that causes itchy, inflamed, and painful skin. This can affect the skin around the opening of the vagina known as the vulva. Vulvar dermatitis can be caused by heat, wetness, or products that irritate the skin such as soaps, detergents, perfumes, or lotions (Cleveland Clinic, 2021). Contact dermatitis can often be treated by removing irritants and keeping the vulva clean and dry. Prescription ointments may also be prescribed to help heal the area. To avoid further irritation, do not sleep in underwear, change your underwear if they are damp, and do not wear pads every day. 

Vaginal rash from molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral infection of the skin and is spread through direct contact or through infected objects, such as clothing, towels, pool equipment, or toys (Huidziekten.nl, 2022). Molluscum contagiosum causes raised, pearly white or pink round bumps anywhere on the body, including the genitals. The bumps may itch or become swollen, but are usually painless. Molloscum contagiosum usually goes away on its own after a few months, but treatment can be used to remove the bumps faster. Treatment should be discussed with a doctor and includes physically removing the bumps, oral medication, or medication applied directly to the lesions (CDC, 2017).

Vaginal rash from neurodermatitis

Neurodermatitis is a skin condition that often occurs on the lower legs, around the neck, or on the wrists. It can also occur in the genital area, including around the vagina. Neurodermatitis is initially caused by skin irritation, such as an insect bite or tight clothing. Scratching the area makes it itch more, eventually causing thick, leathery skin over time. Neurodermatitis is usually treated with ointments and other remedies to help break the cycle of scratching that causes the symptoms (Mayo Clinic, 2022). A dermatologist can provide guidance on how best to treat this condition.

Vaginal rash from candidiasis (yeast infection)

Candida is a fungus that lives on the skin and inside the body, usually without any problems. However, an overgrowth of candida can cause unpleasant symptoms, and is also known as  candidiasis, or a “yeast infection”.  Candidiasis commonly affects the mouth and throat and the vagina. It often causes thick, white vaginal discharge, a red rash around the vagina, pain in the lower abdomen, and itching and burning in the area (Mayo Clinic, 2021). Pain and discomfort may be increased when urinating or during sex. Vaginal candidiasis is extremely common and can be treated with antifungal medication in the form of capsules or creams. These treatments can often be purchased at a drugstore, or prescribed by a GP. 

Vaginal rash from STIs

STIs such as syphilis and genital herpes can cause a rash, sores, or blisters around the vagina. The rash may or may not be painful, and may be accompanied with changes in vaginal discharge. While syphilis can be cured with antibiotics, herpes is a lifelong condition that can be managed in a variety of ways. Read our blog about herpes for more information.

If you believe a rash or sores in your genital area could be from an STI, get tested as soon as possible. Would you like to get tested from home? Homed-IQ’s STI Test Comprehensive checks for eight common STIs, including syphilis and herpes. 

Related Article: Common STI Symptoms in Women

When should you visit a doctor about a vaginal rash?

If a vaginal rash appears that does not resolve with a change in laundry detergent or soap, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. A healthcare provider can determine the cause of your rash and order additional tests or treatment if needed. With prompt medical advice, you can alleviate the symptoms of the rash and prevent its recurrence. 

How can vaginal rash be treated?

Vaginal rashes can be treated in several ways depending on the cause. While some rashes will go away on their own or can be treated using home remedies, others require prescription medication. As such, it is important to see a doctor to find out which treatment is needed. 

If you believe the symptoms you are experiencing could be from an STI, getting tested is the most reliable way to check in on your sexual health. STI test are important for women, but also for men. You can get tested for STIs at your GP, at a sexual health clinic, or from the comfort of home with Homed-IQ’s sexual health tests. All Homed-IQ tests are delivered to your home in discreet packaging. After activating your test, collect your sample in complete privacy and send it to our certified laboratory in the prepaid shipping box. After the laboratory analyzes the sample, your test results are easily accessible in your online account, including a printable laboratory report that can be taken to your doctor. 

References: 

Klachten van de vulva. (z.d.). https://www.isala.nl/patientenfolders/7599-klachten-vulva/

NHS website. (2022, june 28). 

Lichen sclerosus – Symptoms and causes. (2022, September 29). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lichen-sclerosus/symptoms-causes/syc-20374448

Molluscum Contagiosum | Poxvirus | CDC. (2017). https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/molluscum-contagiosum/

​​Molluscum contagiosum (waterwratjes, mollusca contagiosa). (n.d.). https://www.huidziekten.nl/zakboek/dermatosen/mtxt/MolluscumContagiosum.htm

National Eczema Society. (2021, August 11). Female genital eczema. https://eczema.org/information-and-advice/types-of-eczema/female-genital-eczema/

Neurodermatitis – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic. (2022, October 6). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/neurodermatitis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20375639

NHS website. (2022, June 28). Contact dermatitis. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contact-dermatitis/

Yeast infection (vaginal) – Symptoms and causes. (2021, March 17). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/yeast-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20378999

About the author

Lauren Dobischok

Lauren is a health scientist and science communicator living in the Netherlands. With a background in epidemiology, her goal is to create accurate scientific content that is easy to understand and empowers people to make informed decisions. Her favourite topics to discuss are public health, infectious diseases, and dispelling myths and misconceptions about health topics with research. Coming from Canada, Lauren prefers to spend her free time learning Dutch and exploring the interesting sights this small country has to offer!