What is Vulvitis?

Vulvitis is the medical term used for inflammation of the vulva. The vulva is the outer part of the female genitals. It includes the mound of tissues over the pelvic bone that becomes covered with hair at puberty. The vulva also includes the outside and inner lips of the vagina called the labia, and the clitoris (at the top of the inner lips). The vagina opens into the vulva. The urethra, which empties urine from the bladder, also opens into the vulva.
 
Vulvitis can happen to a woman at any age. Possible causes are:
● Skin problems such as eczema, seborrhea, psoriasis, or chronic dermatitis
● Allergies or irritation from chemicals such as soaps, bubble bath, or perfumed substances
● Infections caused by scabies, lice, fungus, or bacteria
● Vulvar dystrophy, which is a change in the skin of the vulva (the skin becomes thicker or thinner)
 
The most common symptoms are:
● Redness, burning, itching
● Thickening or small cracks in the skin around the vagina
● Changes in vaginal discharge
 
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history, hygiene products that you use, and your symptoms. Your provider will examine you. Sometimes removal of a small amount of tissue from the vulva may be done to find out what kinds of cells are causing the problem (a procedure called a biopsy).
 
How is it treated?
The treatment for vulvitis depends on the cause. Infections are treated with antibiotic pills or shots, antifungal or antibacterial creams or gels, vaginal tablets, or vaginal inserts. Your healthcare provider may ask you to stop sexual activity for a time. Your provider may also ask that your partner be treated to prevent re-infection or spread of certain kinds of infection.
 
Vulvitis caused by irritants can usually be treated by stopping exposure to the irritant. Some irritations are treated with steroid or hormone creams.
 
To Help Relieve Symptoms:
● Bathe with nonirritating, unscented soap. Use water that is warm but not hot. Rinse the genital area thoroughly but gently. Pat dry without rubbing.
● Wear loose-fitting, all cotton underwear or cotton-crotch underwear.

To Help Prevent Vulvitis:
Bathe daily with mild soap and warm water.
Wear all-cotton underwear or underwear with cotton crotches. Change underwear and pantyhose every day.
 
Avoid things that increase the chances of vulvitis, such as:
● wearing tight-fitting pants, pantyhose, or tights for too many hours, especially in hot, humid weather
● perfume and dye in toilet paper that might irritate. Use scent-free and deodorant-free white toilet paper instead
● feminine hygiene products (such as sprays and powders)
● bubble baths and oils
● douching more than once a month; douching is not considered necessary for good hygiene
● deodorant sanitary pads or tampons
● spermicidal foams, gels, and creams
● riding a bicycle for long periods of time
● having multiple sexual partners
If you tend to get yeast infections when you take antibiotics, use an anti-yeast cream while you are taking antibiotic medicine.
Use a condom when you have sex to reduce your risk for infection.
 

Sourced From: Health Sciences Library, SUNY Upstate Medical University
Syracuse, N.Y.13210