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What Are the Causes of Vaginal Irritation?

author image R. Y. Langham, Ph.D.
R. Y. Langham served as a senior writer for "The Herald" magazine from 1996-99. Langham holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Fisk University, a Master of Science in marriage and family therapy from Trevecca Nazarene University and a Ph.D in family psychology from Capella University. Dr. R.Y. Langham published her first psychological thriller in September 2011. It can be purchased on Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and Lulu.com.
What Are the Causes of Vaginal Irritation?
Vaginal irritation can occur when delicate vaginal tissues become sore, dry or itchy. Photo Credit Beautiful young woman looking sad image by dpaint from <a href="http://www.fotolia.com">Fotolia.com</a>

Most women experience vaginal irritation at some point in their lives. Vaginal irritation occurs when delicate vaginal tissues become sore, dry or itchy, according to the Dr. Spock website. Vaginal irritation typically occurs when the vaginal tissues become inflamed owing to an overabundance of bacteria in the vagina. The exact cause of vaginal irritation varies but can be related to age and the presence of vaginal irritants, according to Medline Plus.


A common cause of vaginal irritation is menopause. Menopause usually occurs when a woman has not menstruated for 12 consecutive months, according to the North American Menopause Society. Menopause accompanies a decline in estrogen and signifies the end of fertility. Most women experience menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, but it can appear earlier or later, according to Medline Plus. Menopausal women may experience vaginal dryness, irritation or infection after sexual intercourse as the vaginal wall thins out, shortens and loses elasticity. Treatment usually consists of hormone replacement therapy, lifestyle changes or medication.


Women with trichomoniasis may experience an inflamed and irritated vaginal area. Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted disease that occurs when a parasite infects the vagina during sexual activity. A woman may have symptoms of vaginal irritation as the infection travels through her reproductive tract, inflaming delicate vaginal tissue. Symptoms can appear as early as four days after sex with an infected partner and may include a milky or watery gray, green or yellow vaginal discharge, a foul odor, vaginal soreness, itchiness and tenderness, painful sexual intercourse, bleeding after sexual activity, swollen labia and painful urination, according to Kids Health. In rare cases, a person can contract the infection through close contact with items that are infected with the parasite, such as a toilet seat or wet towel. Although the symptoms can disappear on their own, treatment usually consists of the prescription oral medications metronidazole or tinidazole.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis can irritate delicate vaginal tissues. Bacterial vaginosis is a common vaginal infection that primarily occurs in women of childbearing age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Women with bacterial vaginosis may experience irritation when changes in the vaginal environment trigger an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. Symptoms of this infection typically consist of a thin, white vaginal discharge that has a fish-like odor and is accompanied by pain, itching or burning. Having sex with multiple partners or douching may put women at risk for developing bacterial vaginosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bacterial vaginosis typically clears up without treatment, but some patients may require antibiotics to cure the infection.

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