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- Requires medical diagnosis
- Symptoms: Extreme and constant itching, small cracks, sores, blisters or scaly and thick patches
- Color: Typically red or whitish
- Location: On the vulva (the area of skin outside of the female genitalia) or labia (lips of the vagina)
- Treatment: Anti-fungal creams, hydrocortisone creams, prescription sitz baths with soothing or topical estrogen cream
Vulvitis is not a disease, but an inflammation of the vulva caused by an infection, allergy or injury. The vulva is the area of skin outside of the female genitalia, and is prone to irritation because of its moistness and warmth.
Some irritants that cause vulvitis are vaginal sprays, fungal infection, and dermatitis. Stress, poor nutrition, and poor hygiene can also increase susceptibility.
Any woman of any age can be affected by vulvitis, especially those who have not yet reached puberty or are post-menopausal.
Symptoms of Vulvitis
Vulvitis causes extreme and constant itching in the vulva. It also presents itself as small cracks, sores, blisters or scaly and thick whitish patches on the skin of the vulva. Redness and swelling may appear in both the vulva and labia (lips of the vagina). Other symptoms include vaginal discharge and a burning sensation.
What can I do?
Stop using the products that may be causing the inflammation in the vulva. Over-the counter cortisone creams may help reduce the irritation and itching.
To prevent inflammation in the vulva, you can use gentle, unscented cleaning products. Make sure to dry the genital area thoroughly after bathing. Maintaining genital hygiene and wearing loose, breathable clothing can also help. Long-term dermatitis or infections, such as pubic lice or mites (scabies), can also lead to vulvitis.
Avoid the following products/activities, which may cause vulvitis:
- Toilet paper with perfume or dye
- Soaps or bubble baths with perfume
- Shampoos and hair conditioners
- Laundry detergents
- Vaginal sprays, deodorants, and powders
- Hot tub and swimming pool water
- Underwear made of synthetic material without a cotton crotch
- Rubbing against a bike seat
- Wearing a wet bathing suit for a long period
- Riding a horse
Should I seek medical care?
The symptoms of vulvitis can also suggest other disorders or diseases of the genitals. Contact a healthcare provider for more medical advice if you experience the symptoms of vulvitis.
A physician can then perform a full pelvic exam and check for vagina discharge for any infections. A urine sample is usually taken to rule out more serious causes of genital irritation (e.g. vulvar cancer) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Treatment for Vulvitis
Anti-fungal creams and hydrocortisone creams help reduce the inflammation. Prescription sitz baths with soothing compounds and topical estrogen cream may also help reduce the symptoms of vulvitis.
Cleveland Clinic. Diseases & Conditions – Vulvitis. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic-vulvitis
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Vulvitis. Health Library. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/gynecological_health/vulvitis_85,P00596/
The New York Times. Health Guide – Vulvitis. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/vulvitis/overview.html
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