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What Causes Vulvitis & How Is It Treated?

What is Vulvitis?

Vulvitis is a pathological condition of the reproductive system of a female in which there is inflammation of the vulva. This is an area of skin located just on the outer half of the external female genitalia. Since this area of the female genitalia almost always stays warm and moist it becomes vulnerable to various types of infections including vulvitis.

Vulvitis is seen more in females who are diabetic due to the presence of excessive sugar in the cells. The frontline mode of treatment of vulvitis is to prevent the onset of infections by using products that do not irritate the skin. The skin around the vulva is extremely sensitive and can get irritated very easily. Avoiding any product such as a sanitary pad to a soap which has artificial fragrances is the best way to prevent vulvitis [1].

Additionally, wearing extra tight undergarments increases the moisture in the area around the vulva making it prone to infection. This condition does not have age prevalence and females of any age can develop it; however, it is more common in females who have either not reached puberty or have attained menopause. This is because of the low levels of estrogen in these females causing the vulva to be drier than normal [1].

Symptoms of Vulvitis

The primary presenting features of vulvitis include persistent itching sensation around the vulva and vagina. The female can also experience a burning sensation around this region. Some females have discharge from the vagina as a result of vulvitis. The skin around the vulva tends to become cracked as a result of the dryness. Some female also develop swelling around the vulva and the vagina. In some instances, a female can develop blisters and there will be white patches on the vulva due to vulvitis [2].

The symptoms that are seen with vulvitis at times also indicate the presence of some other medical condition around the genital area of a female and thus a consultation with a physician is recommended if such symptoms are experienced to get to a definitive diagnosis. This article highlights some of the potential causes of vulvitis and ways to manage this condition [2].

What Causes Vulvitis?

What Causes Vulvitis?

The most common cause of vulvitis is allergies to certain sanitary products or fabric like soaps, lotions, douches, or synthetic undergarments all can cause vulvitis.

Additionally, use of scented toilet paper, certain types of shampoos, and detergents all have a tendency to cause vulvitis. Some people are allergic to certain antiseptic creams and ointments and when they apply it to the genital region they tend to develop vulvitis. This condition can also be caused due to spending lot of time in the swimming pool where the chlorinated water can cause irritation of the skin around the vulva resulting in inflammation [2].

Yeast infection like candida albicans is yet another common cause for vulvitis. Females who go to water parks and spend lot of time in wet swimwear can poor hygiene practices is also one of the primary causes of a female developing vulvitis. There are also certain medical conditions that tend to cause vulvitis. Vulvitis is seen most commonly in diabetic females, females with herpes infection, or having dermatitis [2].

As stated, girls who have not attained puberty or are postmenopausal are most at risk for developing vulvitis due to the depleted levels of estrogen in the body. With the low levels of estrogen, the tissues around the vulva become thin and dry and their elasticity decreases. This is the reason why such females are at increased risk for developing vulvitis. Due to the variety of causes of vulvitis and the symptoms that it causes which mimics many other conditions of the female genitalia makes the diagnosis of vulvitis quite tough. However, once diagnosed, it is quite easy to treat vulvitis [2].

How is Vulvitis Treated?

Once treatment starts, it usually takes a couple of weeks for the inflammation to calm down and the condition is cured. In cases where depleted estrogen levels is believed to be the cause of vulvitis then estrogen cream is to be applied to the affected area to increase its levels and restore the normal moisture in the area. For added relief of the symptoms of itching and burning sensation, physicians may prescribe antifungals and hydrocortisone creams. Applying warm compresses to the area is also quite an effective way to calm down the inflammation due to vulvitis [2].

If a medical condition like diabetes or herpes is causing vulvitis then treating the condition almost always treats vulvitis. For diabetics, tight control of the blood sugar is essential for treating inflammation causing vulvitis. In case if the standard modes of treatment are ineffective in calming down the symptoms of vulvitis then the physician will recommend more investigative tests to identify a cause for the condition [2].

Diagnosis may also include a biopsy of the affected region to rule out medical conditions like vaginal dystrophy which causes abnormal skin growths around the vulva. It is generally a precancerous condition and should be investigated thoroughly and treated. If skin lesions can be seen around the vulva which is causing inflammation then a biopsy of these lesions will also be done.

Vulvitis caused due to common irritants of the skin like creams, lotions, or soaps can be easily prevented by avoiding these substances. It is also recommended to avoid spending much time in swimming pools without a break or wearing wet swimwear to prevent skin irritation from wet clothes or chlorinated water. It is also essential to avoid sexual activity with multiple partners or use protection to avoid contracting sexually transmitted infections like herpes [2].

It has also been observed that some females are allergic to the ingredients used in making condoms and using them may irritate and inflame the skin causing vulvitis. In such instances, it is better to use alternative forms of protection. Eating a balanced diet, practicing good personal hygiene, and having a good sleep-wake cycle can also help in preventing a female from developing vulvitis. Coping with stress in a healthful way is yet another way to prevent conditions like vulvitis [2].

In conclusion, vulvitis is quite a common condition of the female external genitalia. It is caused by the inflammation of the vulva which is a soft skin located on the outer of the genitalia. It is usually a benign condition and is observed mainly in girls who have not attained puberty or postmenopausal females. This is because of the depleted estrogen levels in these females causing excessive dryness around the vaginal and vulvar area. Some of the other causes of vulvitis include medical conditions like diabetes and sexually transmitted infections like herpes [1, 2].

Vulvitis is a fairly benign condition and can be easily treated by medications, creams, and lotions. In some cases, where low levels of estrogen is responsible for the development of this condition then topical estrogen supplements will be prescribed to be applied to the affected area to increase moisture and lubrication. It usually takes a couple of weeks for the inflammation to resolve and manage vulvitis [2].

Diabetic females are recommended to maintain tight control of blood sugars to prevent vulvitis from occurring. It is also recommended for females to use protection during sexual activity, especially with multiple partners to prevent contracting herpes infection with resultant vulvitis. Additionally, eating a balanced diet, getting good sleep, and practicing good oral hygiene is mandatory to prevent development of vulvitis [2].


Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 21, 2019

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