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Vulvitis in Teens

What is vulvitis?

Vulvitis is simply an inflammation of the vulva, the soft folds of skin outside the vagina. This is not a condition. It is a symptom that can result from a host of diseases, infections, injuries, allergies, and other irritants. Diagnosing and treating this condition can be frustrating because it is often hard to find the specific cause of the irritation.

What causes vulvitis?

Vulvitis may be caused by one or more, of the following:

  • Scented or colored toilet paper

  • Perfumed soaps or bubble baths

  • Shampoos and hair conditioners

  • Laundry detergents (especially enzyme-activated "cold water" formulas)

  • Vaginal sprays, deodorants, and powders

  • Spermicides

  • Condoms

  • Contraceptive creams, jellies, foams, nonoxynol-9, lubricants

  • Dyes

  • Emollients

  • Sanitary products, including tampons and pads

  • Tea tree oil

  • Topical anesthetics

  • Topical antibacterials

  • Topical antimycotics

  • Topical corticosteroids

  • Topical medicines used to treat genital warts

  • Douching

  • Hot tub and swimming pool water

  • Synthetic undergarments without a cotton crotch

  • Rubbing against a bicycle seat

  • Wearing a wet bathing suit for a long period of time

  • Horseback riding

  • Infections, like pubic lice (pediculosis) or mites (scabies) 

  • Infections, like fungal, trichomonal, herpes, syphilis, HPV, mulloscum contagiosum

  • Dermatoses, like psoriasis as well as others that are less common

  • Crohn's disease

Who is at risk for vulvitis?

Any female with certain allergies, sensitivities, infections, or diseases can develop vulvitis. Girls who have not yet reached puberty and postmenopausal women sometimes develop vulvitis, possibly because of lower levels of estrogen.

What are the symptoms of vulvitis?

These are the most common symptoms for vulvitis:

  • Redness and swelling on the labia and other parts of the vulva

  • Excruciating itching

  • Clear, fluid-filled blisters. These are present when the vulva is particularly irritated.

  • Sore, scaly, thickened, or whitish patches. These are more common in chronic vulvitis) on the vulva.

The symptoms of vulvitis may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always see a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is vulvitis diagnosed?

Your teen's healthcare provider will review her medical history and do a physical and pelvic exam. Diagnostic tests for vulvitis may include:

  • Blood tests

  • Urinalysis

  • Tests for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

  • Biopsy

  • Microbial testing

What is the treatment for vulvitis?

Treatment may include:

  • Self-help measures (like avoiding external irritants known to provoke vulvitis)

  • Sitz baths with soothing compounds (to help control the itching)

  • Creams

  • Topical medicines, like steroid creams or antifungal creams aimed at the specific cause

  • Oral medicines aimed at the specific cause

Online Medical Reviewer: Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Sacks, Daniel, MD, FACOG
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2017
© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.