Q: My friend said she’s afraid to have sex with her boyfriend because she has vulvitis. What is it?
Vulvitis – a threat on your most intimate part, is something you should look out for. It is an inflammation of the soft skin located outside of the vagina called the vulva and caused by seemingly non-threatening things like synthetic underwear.
So why is it a big deal? Well, if untreated, it can develop to vulvar cancer, especially if vaginal discharges and skin lesions are present.
Other symptoms include itching, redness, burning and swelling, scaly growths or small cracks, soreness, and thickened white patches appearing on the vulva.
According to doctors, pre-pubescent girls and post-menopausal women are at an especially higher risk as they tend to have lower estrogen levels.
The Cleveland Clinic adds that lower estrogen levels contribute to risk because it causes the tissues of the vulva to become thinner and drier, but really any woman can develop vulvitis especially if they have strong allergies, existing infections or diseases, or sensitivity to some products or sex.
While good personal hygiene is vital in preventing vulvitis, over-washing of the genitalia can also make symptoms worse, and doctors agree that certain hygiene products can cause irritation in some women that can lead to vulvitis.
How To Prevent It
Monitor your use of colored or perfumed toilet paper, vaginal sprays or douches, shampoos and hair conditioners, laundry detergents, topical creams and medications, bubble bath or soap used on the genitals, spermicides, and sanitary napkins that may irritate the soft skin of the vulva.
Douching, a yeast infection, pubic lice, eczema or dermatitis may also cause vulvitis or irritate symptoms, as well as going into chlorinated water in swimming pools or hot tubs, wearing synthetic underwear or nylon pantyhose, wearing a wet bathing suit for a long time, and even activities like biking or horseback riding.
It is also important to check with your doctor if you are diabetic, or have sexually transmitted infections that may be causing the vulvitis.
The Cleveland Clinic notes that primary treatment of vulvitis is immediately stopping the use of any of the mentioned products or activities and to wear loose-fitting, breathable cotton undergarments.
Cortisone ointments applied on the affected area can help alleviate irritation and itching, as well as estrogen creams and sitz baths.