If the soft skin around the vaginal opening becomes irritated and causes itching or redness, you may have vulvovaginitis. Fortunately, this condition can easily be treated by a doctor or home remedies.
Read more about vulvovaginitis, its causes, symptoms, and treatments.
What is vulvovaginitis?
Vulvar dermatitis is when the folds of skin around the vagina become inflamed and irritated. The area may be painful, itchy, and red. The inflammation is sometimes called vulvovaginitis. The soft skin folds of the vulva are designed to stay moist and warm, making them susceptible to irritation or infection.
Dermatitis can develop anywhere on the body. It is caused by irritants, such as hygiene products, clothing, bacteria, yeast or viruses, coming into contact with the skin.
Your symptoms may also be caused by another condition or simply your body’s response to exposure to an irritant.
Vulvar dermatitis can affect people of all ages. However, young people who have not yet started menstruating and those who are post-menopausal are more likely to develop it.
Causes and symptoms of vulvovaginitis
Vulvar dermatitis can be caused by skin conditions, infections, hygiene, and irritating products. Some of the possible causes of vulvovaginitis include:
- Eczema: An inflammatory skin condition that causes a scaly and itchy rash
- Psoriasis: A skin condition that causes skin cells to accumulate and form silvery scaly patches
- Yeast infection: Infection caused by Candida (a type of mushroom)
- Bacterial vaginosis: Bacterial infections usually occur when the microflora in the vagina is disrupted
- Lichen sclerosis: A rare skin condition that causes small white patches around the vagina
- Endocrine drugs: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), using certain medications such as birth control is a risk factor for yeast infections.
- Allergies and sensitivities: Products and fragrances can irritate or affect your pH balance. These can include soaps, laundry detergents, moisturizers, lubricants, and other products.
- Clothes: Clothing can trap sweat or rub the skin, leading to irritation and itching.
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): Many sexually transmitted diseases cause vulvar irritation, such as herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital warts, and trichomoniasis.
- Vaginal cancer: A rare condition that causes lumps, sores, pain in the pelvis, redder or paler skin, stinging, and persistent itching
The symptoms you experience will vary depending on the cause of your vulvovaginitis.
Common symptoms of vulvovaginitis include:
- Pain or discomfort
- Pain during sex
There are also some symptoms specific to the condition.
How to Treat Vulvar Dermatitis at Home
Depending on the cause and severity, you can treat the cause of vulvovaginitis at home. Here are a few examples of conditions you can manage yourself.
Allergic to the product
If your symptoms develop after using a new product, you may be allergic to that product. If you stop using the product, your symptoms should be relieved after a week or two.
People who have had a yeast infection can recognize the symptoms and take steps to treat it on their own. Over-the-counter (OTC) creams, ointments, suppositories, and antifungals can be used to treat and relieve itching caused by yeast infections.
If your symptoms don’t improve within two weeks of treatment, your yeast infection keeps coming back, or you’re concerned about your symptoms, talk to your doctor.
There are also a number of other home remedies that are not specific to one condition but can help you manage the symptoms of vulvovaginitis:
- Use a moisturizer or lubricant if your skin is dry.
- Wash your vaginal area about once a day with cool water and a mild, hypoallergenic soap, and remember to pat the area dry instead of rubbing.
- Apply an anti-itch cream or ointment.
- Apply cold to reduce irritation and inflammation.
- Take an allergy medication or an OTC antihistamine.
When to call your doctor
If your symptoms don’t go away within one to two weeks, call your doctor. They can help find the cause of your vulva irritation and recommend the best course of treatment.
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. They will also do a pelvic exam to check for redness, blisters, lesions, and abnormal vaginal discharge. They may take a sample of the discharge to test for infection or other abnormalities.
Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor can prescribe the appropriate treatment, which may include antibiotics, antivirals, or prescription antifungals. They may also have other recommendations to help you manage your symptoms until your condition improves.
Red flag symptoms
There are a number of symptoms that could indicate a more serious problem that you won’t be able to manage on your own. If you have these signs or symptoms, call your doctor right away:
- Fever or chills
- Unusual or smelly vaginal discharge
- Burning or pain when urinating
- Increased pain, swelling, heat around your vaginal area
How to prevent vulvovaginitis?
You can’t always prevent vulvovaginitis, but there are some things you can do to reduce your risk.
- Avoid irritating products such as harsh detergents, scented soaps, scented bath products, bath bombs, scented tampons or pads, douches, scented lubes, lubricants spermicide and strong lubricant condoms.
- Practice safe sex to reduce your risk of getting an STI.
- Wear loose, breathable or moisture-wicking clothing.
- Avoid washing the vaginal area too often; goal once a day, and use mild soap (or no soap) and warm (not too hot) water.
- Take off wet or sweaty clothing and quickly change into dry clothes after swimming or exercising.
Vulvar dermatitis is a very common condition that causes the skin around the vagina to become irritated, red, and itchy. It can be caused by irritating products, skin conditions, or infections.
The condition isn’t always preventable, but some lifestyle changes (like avoiding irritating products) can help in some cases.
A very good word
If you experience pain, itching, and irritation around the vulva area, talk to your doctor. They can diagnose the cause of your symptoms and help you find treatments that provide relief.
frequently asked Questions
How common is vulvovaginitis?
Vulvaritis is a very common skin disease. It can be caused by many common conditions. For example, almost everyone with a vagina will get a yeast infection at some point in their lives.
How long does vulvovaginitis heal?
The length of time it takes for vulvovaginitis to heal will depend on the cause.
For example, if irritation is caused by a product or clothing, symptoms may resolve within one to two weeks after the irritant is removed.
If caused by an infection, symptoms should begin to improve within one to two weeks of treatment. However, symptoms may persist for a month or longer.
Does vulvovaginitis go away on its own?
Vulvar dermatitis may clear up on its own without medication, depending on the cause. If it’s caused by an allergic reaction or sensitivity, the symptoms should go away on their own after the irritant is removed.
If vulvovaginitis is caused by an infection or skin condition, medication is often needed to clear up the infection or control symptoms.
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