Burning After Sex: What Are Some Reasons?

Sex can be fun and fulfilling, awkward and embarrassing, or a combination of the two, but it shouldn’t be painful. Experiencing a burning sensation after sex isn’t normal — but it isn’t unusual either. Many things can cause painful burning affecting the penis, urethra, vagina, and vulva after sexual intercourse. If you or your partner are experiencing burning after sex, you should seek medical care.

Key takeaways:

Burning after sex

There are many reasons why you may experience a burning sensation after sex. If you feel your penis, vulva, or vagina burning after sex or feel burning when urinating after sex, then you need to know the possible causes. Experiencing any burning sensation in the genitals should be a cause for concern. It can be a symptom of a serious condition — but even if it isn’t serious, it may still require medical treatment.

What causes burning after sex?

The leading causes of burning after sex include infections, physical trauma, and irritation of the genitals. In some cases, burning can be a symptom of chronic pain or can have psychological causes. Here are the most common causes of burning after sex and how to treat them.

Common infections causing burning

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) frequently cause a burning sensation in the urethra or genitals. Additionally, UTIs and STIs can cause a burning feeling in the urethra during urination. Sexually transmitted infections can also produce a rash or discharge from the penis or vagina.

Yeast infections can cause burning after sex or during urination. Although yeast infections affect women more often than men, men can still contract them. Yeast infections can cause pain, burning, itching, redness, swelling of the vagina or penis, and discharge. Topical and oral medications are available to treat yeast infections.

Urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted infections need to be treated with antibiotics. Fortunately, UTIs are usually easily treated with oral antibiotics. On the other hand, STI treatment depends on the diagnosis, so you should be tested for various STIs, including chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, bacterial vaginosis, herpes, and HIV.

If not treated, symptoms will likely worsen, and you may have long-term complications. Untreated UTIs can lead to serious kidney damage. Conversely, untreated STIs can spread to others and cause serious, life-threatening complications.

Vaginal irritation

Vaginal dryness can lead to mechanical irritation during intercourse. Poor vaginal lubrication can be due to changes in hormone levels (menopause, for example) or insufficient sexual arousal before penetration. Menopause can also cause the lining of the vagina to atrophy, becoming thinner and more susceptible to injury and irritation. A doctor should assess vaginal dryness or atrophy. If it is hormonal, it can be treated with estrogen therapy — such as a vaginal cream. Using personal lubricants can also help avoid irritation.

Allergic reactions

Allergic reactions can cause burning after sex. These reactions can be localized to the genitals or affect the whole body — causing hives, itching, or difficulty breathing. If you have an allergic reaction after sex, seek medical attention.

Latex in condoms and dental dams can cause a reaction in some people. Although most condoms are made from latex, non-latex condoms are available. Condoms made with polyurethane or polyisoprene protect against HIV and other STIs — lambskin condoms do not.

Furthermore, some people may be allergic to ingredients in personal lubricants. Therefore, trying a different lubricant brand or a different type of lubricant — water-based, oil-based, or silicone-based — may help to relieve or avoid symptoms. However, be sure not to use an oil-based lube with latex condoms.

Additionally, some people can develop a semen allergy. This usually occurs in women, but there are reported cases of men becoming allergic to their own semen. A semen allergy can affect any part of the body that comes into contact with semen. Using a condom and taking antihistamines before sex can prevent an allergic reaction to semen. An allergy specialist can also perform desensitization therapy.

Physical trauma

Physical trauma to the genitals can cause burning sensations after sex. Fissures — cracks in the skin — can cause pain and burning, especially after irritation during sex. An injury or other medical conditions can cause fissures, and they can also become infected. Seek medical care to treat fissures and other injuries.

Rough sex can cause physical trauma and lead to pain and burning after sex. Bruising, skin tears, and abrasions can cause burning after rough penetration. Using condoms and lubricants can help minimize trauma and avoid complications, such as infections.

Pain disorders and psychological causes

Other conditions that can cause pain and burning in the vagina include vulvodynia and vaginismus.

Vulvodynia is a chronic pain condition that affects the vulva — the labia, clitoris, and vaginal opening. It can cause pain, burning, swelling, and discomfort. It can be caused by nerve damage, injury, infection, musculoskeletal conditions, and inflammation. Vulvodynia needs to be evaluated by a gynecologist to determine what is causing it and how best to treat it.

Vaginismus is a condition that causes painful, involuntary muscle spasms in the vagina. Vaginismus can make sex painful (dyspareunia) or impossible. It can have physical causes, such as vaginal tearing, childbirth, or past surgery. However, it can also have psychological causes, including anxiety, fear, negative feelings about sex, or past sexual trauma.

Because vaginismus and vulvodynia can occur together, there are many different treatments. Topical or injected anesthetics can help relieve symptoms, as can medications for anxiety and depression. Physical therapy for the pelvic floor muscles, biofeedback, cognitive behavioral therapy, and sex therapy can all help control how the body responds to physical and emotional stimulation.

When to see a doctor

Many things that cause burning after sex are relatively minor, but you should seek medical attention to discover the cause and get proper treatment. If you only experience burning once and it isn’t severe or associated with other symptoms, you may not need medical care. However, you should see a healthcare provider for recurrent or severe symptoms.

Seek immediate medical attention
If you are experiencing fever, intense pain, difficulty breathing, or bleeding along with burning.

These can be signs of serious, life-threatening complications that require emergency care.

Many things can cause a burning sensation after sex, but most are easily treatable. To learn the cause of your symptoms, see a doctor and have a physical exam. Your doctor may order blood tests and other tests to help with the diagnosis. Sex should be comfortable and enjoyable; don’t let medical problems prevent you from having a satisfying sex life.

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