The vulva is the area surrounding the opening of the vagina and containing the external female genital organs.
External Female Genital Organs
Causes of Vulvitis
Vulvitis may result from
Allergic reactions to substances that come in contact with the vulva (such as soaps, bubble bath, fabrics, and perfumes)
Infections, including yeast infections Vaginal Yeast Infection (Candidiasis) The vagina is infected by a yeast called Candida, usually Candida albicans, resulting in a yeast infection called candidiasis. Being pregnant or having diabetes or a weakened immune... read more and sexually transmitted infections Overview of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Sexually transmitted (venereal) diseases are infections that are typically, but not exclusively, passed from person to person through sexual contact. Sexually transmitted infections may be caused... read more (such as herpes)
Irritation by urine or stool if it remains in contact with the vulva (as may occur in women who have incontinence or are confined to bed)
Contact with urine and stool sometimes causes ongoing (chronic) vulvitis.
In children, infections of the vagina may also affect the vulva. These infections may be due to bacteria from the anus or other bacteria.
Symptoms of Vulvitis
Vulvitis causes itching, soreness, and redness. Rarely, the folds of skin around the vaginal and urethral openings (labia) become stuck together. Chronic vulvitis may result in sore, scaly, thickened, or whitish patches on the vulva.
Diagnosis of Vulvitis
A doctor's evaluation
Doctors examine the vulva to check for redness and changes in the skin and check for a discharge from the vagina. They also ask questions about the discharge (if present), about possible causes of the symptoms, and about hygiene.
To check for other infections, doctors typically do a pelvic examination, Gynecologic Examination For gynecologic care, a woman should choose a health care practitioner with whom she can comfortably discuss sensitive topics, such as sex, birth control, pregnancy, and problems related to... read more and if a discharge is present, they examine it under a microscope. The doctor may also use a swab to take a sample of fluid from the cervix. The sample is tested for sexually transmitted infections.
Treatment of Vulvitis
Hydrocortisone or estrogen cream
Various treatments may be tried for vulvitis. They include
Avoiding substances that can irritate the vulva
Keeping the vulva clean and dry
Sitting in a sitz bath containing soothing substances (to help control the itching)
Applying hydrocortisone or estrogen cream to the vulva
If chronic vulvitis does not respond to treatment, doctors usually do a biopsy to look for the cause, such as skin disorders of the vulva (vulvar dystrophies, such as lichen sclerosus Lichen Sclerosus Lichen sclerosus is a disorder that tends to cause itching and can cause scarring in the area around the anus and genitals. The cause of lichen sclerosis is unknown, but it may involve the immune... read more or squamous cell hyperplasia) or cancer Overview of Skin Cancer Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Skin cancer is most common among people who work or play sports outside and among sunbathers. Fair-skinned people are particularly susceptible... read more .