What Is Vulvitis?

Vulvitis is a condition that includes inflammation of the soft folds of skin on the outside of the vulva (female genitalia). The vulva area is more at risk for irritation because of its moist, warm environment. The skin irritation can be caused by infection, allergic reaction, or injury. The condition can affect women and girls of all ages, and can have a variety of causes.

What Are the Symptoms of Vulvitis?

The following symptoms are common to vulvitis:

  • Constant extreme itching
  • A burning sensation in the vulvar area
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Redness and swelling on the vulva and labia
  • Small cracks on the skin of the vulva
  • Blisters on the vulva
  • Scaly, thick, whitish patches on the vulva

Symptoms of vulvitis can indicate other disorders or diseases of the genitals. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please consult your Baptist Health primary care physician or gynecologist.

What Causes Vulvitis?

Allergies or sensitivities to particular products, items, or habits can trigger vulvitis. Potential causes of vulvitis include the following:

Hygiene products, including:

  • Vaginal sprays or douches
  • Dyed or perfumed toilet paper
  • Shampoos and conditioners
  • Topical medications and creams
  • Laundry detergents

Allergic reaction to:

  • Bubble bath
  • Soap used on genitals
  • Sanitary napkins
  • Spermicides

Irritation caused by:

  • A yeast infection
  • Douching
  • Chlorinated water in swimming pools or hot tubs
  • Non-breathable synthetic underwear or nylon pantyhose
  • Wearing a wet swimsuit for a sustained time
  • Cycling or horseback riding
  • Incontinence
  • Poor personal hygiene

Other factors, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Eczema or dermatitis
  • Herpes
  • Scabies or pubic lice
  • Lichen sclerosus

Postmenopausal women are typically more susceptible to vulvitis. This is due to estrogen levels decreasing. As estrogen levels drop, the vulvar tissues become thinner, drier, and less elastic, which increases the risk of developing vulvitis.

Types of Vulvitis

  • Candida vulvitis:  A yeast infection of female external genitals (the vulva).
  • Chronic vulvitis: A chronic inflammatory skin condition that affects external female genitals (the vulva).

How Is Vulvitis Diagnosed?

Typically, a healthcare professional will get a medical history and perform a pelvic examination to determine if there are skin conditions that indicate vulvitis. Additional assessments for diagnosis may include taking a sample of vaginal discharge or ordering a urinalysis to rule out sexually transmitted infections or more serious conditions involving genital irritation.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, please contact your Baptist Health primary care physician.

How Is Vulvitis Treated?

Treatment for vulvitis tends to be relatively easy. Once vulvitis is diagnosed, symptoms are usually resolved within weeks upon starting treatment. There are several different treatment options including topical ointments, wearing breathable and loose-fitting underwear, or taking a sitz bath. If after these treatments, the symptoms are not resolved, further tests may be needed to rule out other serious conditions.

If you are experiencing symptoms, please contact a Baptist Health primary care physician, as genital irritation and inflammation can be indicative of more serious conditions.

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