Although inflammation of the vulvar region is referred to as vulvitis, there are several conditions that fall under this term. Vulvovaginitis, vulvitis and vaginitis are interchangeable terms used by gynecologists for this condition.
Vulvitis is neither a disease nor a condition but a symptom caused by a number of different reasons like external irritants, allergies, injuries and infections. This symptom is often accompanied by genital herpes or vaginitis, which are both vaginal infections. Women having poor nutrition or hygiene or who undergo a lot of stress are more likely to suffer from vulvitis.
Symptoms of Vulvitis
- Benign to extensive burning and/or itching on vulva
- Vulvar swelling and redness
- Scaly appearance
- Whitish or thickened patches
- Clear blister filled with fluid which break open and form a crust and are often confused with herpes.
- Damp and/or raw feeling. Most women believe that the dampness is caused by the vaginal discharge and think that it is the reason for the symptoms. The weeping of the outer vulvar skin surface caused by chronic irritation is the actual reason for this dampness.
- In critical cases, intercourse, a speculum exam or insertion of tampon might cause pain.
Causes of Vulvitis
There are a number of factors that might result in the development of vulvitis:
- Oral sex
- Fungal or bacterial infection
- Swimming pools and hot tubs
- Wearing a wet swimming suit for an extended period of time
- Riding a horse or a bicycle
- Colored or perfumed toilet tissue
- Allergic vulvitis caused due to reaction to products liketopical medications,vaginal douches, pantyhose, deodorants, powders, sanitary napkins, bubble baths, shampoos, soaps, or non-cotton underwear.
Medical Treatments for Vulvitis
Diagnosis is the first step in vulvitis treatment. The doctor might prescribe antibacterial treatment or antifungal creams after ascertaining the cause for the problem. Severe itching can be relieved by the use of soothing lotions or cortisone creams. For short term uses, low-dose cortisone creams are advised; while in some conditions, fluorinated ones are far more effective although they cause skin atrophy and thinning if used for too long. A type of local estrogen is prescribed usually for postmenopausal women.Vulvitis caused by herpes or vaginal infection can be cured by treating these conditions.
Taking Aveeno sitz baths twice a day can alleviate symptoms of itching but you must dry the pubic region and vulva thoroughly afterwards with a dry towel. A blow dryer on a cool setting can be used for thorough drying of the vulva, too. However, if you do not have one, then you can dry the vulva completely by laying down on the bed with your legs drawn up and your knees bent. Now, get into a frog position by separating your legs, allowing the vulva to dry out.
Oral antihistamines like Benadryl, Vistaril and Atarax can be used for treating the itching associated with vulvitis. You can also use Vaseline over prescription medication like Lidex for treating this issue.
In order to rule out cancer or lichen sclerosis, a chronic vulvar condition that causes pain, itching, scarring and bruising, a vulvar biopsy might be necessary if the vulvitis worsens. This biopsy is usually performed under local anesthesia at the practitioner’s office.
Self-Care for Vulvitis
Maintaining good local vulvar hygiene is the best vulvitis treatment. You can control this issue at home by adopting the following measures:
- Wear cotton undergarments.
- Use baby detergent or perfume and dye-free detergent for sensitive skin for washing your cotton undergarments.
- Patients of advanced vulvitis must wash all their clothes in these detergents for the initial 2-3 months.
- Take brief, cool showers to prevent drying of skin.
- Prevent drying of vulvar skin by using unscented Ivory or Dove soap.
- Wash the vaginal entrance and the hairy areas outside it but refrain from washing the inside part of the vagina or labia.
- Don’t use feminine deodorant sprays if you have vulvitis or douche unless suggested by a physician.
- Don’t shave pubic hair as it can irritate the skin leading to vulvitis.
- Use small amounts of unscented corn starch but refrain from using powders on the vulva.
- Exercising and changing quickly into dry clothes after a swim can also help in keeping this problem at bay.