Vulvitis is inflammation of the vulva. When both the vulva and vagina are inflamed, the disorder is called vulvovaginitis.
The vulva is the area surrounding the opening of the vagina and containing the external female genital organs.
Vulvitis may result from
Allergic reactions to substances that come in contact with the vulva (such as soaps, bubble bath, fabrics, and perfumes)
Skin disorders (such as dermatitis)
Infestation with pubic lice—a disorder called pediculosis pubis
Irritation by urine or stool if it remains in contact with the vulva (as may occur in women who have incontinence or are confined to bed)
Contact with urine and stool sometimes cause ongoing (chronic) vulvitis.
In children, infections of the vagina may also affect the vulva. These infections may be due to bacteria from the anus or other bacteria.
Doctors examine the vulva to check for redness and changes in the skin and check for a discharge from the vagina. They also ask questions about the discharge (if present), about possible causes of the symptoms, and about hygiene.
To check for other infections, doctors typically do a pelvic examination, and if a discharge is present, they examine it under a microscope. The doctor may also use a swab to take a sample of fluid from the cervix. The sample is tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
Various treatments may be tried. They include
If chronic vulvitis does not respond to treatment, doctors usually do a biopsy to look for the cause, including skin disorders of the vulva (vulvar dystrophies, such as lichen sclerosus or squamous cell hyperplasia) or cancer.