Patient Information: Vulvar - Vaginal Disease
What is contact vulvitis?
Contact vulvitis is a skin problem that causes vulvar/vaginal itching and burning when there is no infection.
This occurs when the vulvar skin becomes very sensitive to products called contact irritants. Examples include things such as laundry detergents, fabric softeners, body soaps and feminine hygiene products (such as douches, vaginal deodorants, pads or wipes). A complete list is included later. Regular and continued use of these products over a period of time cause irritation, burning and/or itching.
Contact vulvitis is rarely an allergic reaction.
What are the signs and symptoms of contact vulvitis?
- Mild to severe itching and/or burning on vulva.
- Vulvar redness and swelling.
- Raw feeling due to the vulvar irritation.
- Damp/wet feeling due to the oozing of the irritated skin surface. Some women mistake this dampness to be a vaginal discharge.
- Vulvar pain, in more advanced cases, with insertion of a tampon, speculum, or with intercourse.
How is contact vulvitis diagnosed (identified)?
Your doctor or health care provider will examine the vulva area to look for common skin changes seen with contact vulvitis. A sample of your discharge is collected and tested to rule out infection.
What contact irritants should be avoided?
- Laundry detergents containing enzymes, whiteners, and brighteners
- Fabric softeners and dryer sheets
- Bath soaps, gels, lotions
- Bubble bath, oils, bath salts, skin softeners
- Feminine hygiene sprays, perfumes or powders
- Adult and baby wipes or towelettes
- Deodorant tampons and pads
- Contraceptive creams, jellies, foams and sponges
- Condoms, prepackaged with lubricant or spermicides
- Colored, perfumed toilet paper
- Synthetics such as nylon underwear or panty hose
What is the treatment of contact vulvitis?
- Remove irritants. Follow the Guidelines for Vulvar Skin Care.
- Apply Steroid Ointments Use: Apply thin layer to areas of discomfort
- Action: Decrease redness, swelling, itching, burning
- Caution: Use only as prescribed by your doctor. Overuse may result in thinning of the skin which will make your problem worse rather than helping it.
- Baking Soda Soaks Soak in luke warm bath water with 4-5 tablespoons of baking soda to help soothe vulvar itching and burning. Soak 2-3 times a day for 10-15 minutes. If you are using a sitz bath, use 1-2 teaspoons of baking soda.
- Gold Bond or Zeasorb powder may be applied to the vulva and groin areas if chronic dampness/moisture is a problem.
Symptoms should resolve with these suggestions. If symptoms persist, further follow-up and treatment may be needed.
Peer Review Status: Internally
Peer Review Date: 2004