What to do if you have vulvar eczema

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Vulvar Eczema: Understanding, Treatment, and Prevention


What is Vulvar Eczema?

Vulvar eczema, also known as vulvar dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition that causes inflammation, itching, and dryness of the vulva, the external female genitalia. It is a common condition, affecting up to 10% of women at some point in their lives.

Causes of Vulvar Eczema

The exact cause of vulvar eczema is unknown, but several factors are believed to contribute to its development, including:

Genetics: Some people are more prone to developing eczema due to their genetic makeup.

Allergies and irritants: Contact with allergens or irritants, such as soaps, detergents, fragrances, or certain fabrics, can trigger vulvar eczema.

Hormonal changes: Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, menstruation, or menopause can worsen vulvar eczema.

Skin infections: Bacterial or yeast infections can lead to inflammation and irritation of the vulva.

Autoimmune disorders: Certain autoimmune disorders, such as lichen planus or lupus, can cause vulvar eczema.

Symptoms of Vulvar Eczema

The most common symptoms of vulvar eczema include:

Itching: Intense and persistent itching in the vulvar area

Redness: Inflammation and redness of the vulva

Dryness: Scaly, flaky, or cracked skin

Burning or stinging: Painful sensation when urinating or wiping

Swelling: Puffiness and enlargement of the vulva

Diagnosis of Vulvar Eczema

Diagnosing vulvar eczema typically involves a physical examination by a healthcare professional. The doctor will examine the vulva and ask about your symptoms and medical history. A biopsy may be necessary to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.

Treatment Options for Vulvar Eczema

Treatment for vulvar eczema aims to reduce inflammation, relieve symptoms, and prevent flare-ups. Treatment options may include:

Topical Medications: Creams or ointments containing corticosteroids, calcineurin inhibitors, or anti-inflammatories help reduce inflammation and itching.

Oral Medications: Antihistamines or antibiotics may be prescribed to address underlying allergies or infections.

Sitz Baths: Warm baths with added Epsom salts or oatmeal can soothe and reduce inflammation.

Lifestyle Modifications: Avoiding triggers, using mild and fragrance-free products, and wearing loose cotton underwear can help prevent flare-ups.

Phototherapy: Exposure to ultraviolet light in a controlled setting can help suppress inflammation.

Prevention of Vulvar Eczema Flare-Ups

To prevent vulvar eczema flare-ups, it is important to:

Identify and avoid triggers: Determine which allergens or irritants worsen your symptoms and reduce exposure to them.

Practice good hygiene: Keep the vulvar area clean and dry by washing gently with mild soap and water.

Use fragrance-free products: Avoid soaps, detergents, lotions, and other products with added fragrances or dyes.

Wear comfortable clothing: Wear loose cotton underwear that allows the skin to breathe. Avoid tight-fitting or synthetic fabrics.

Control stress: Stress can trigger flare-ups. Engage in stress-reducing activities such as exercise, meditation, or yoga.

When to Seek Medical Help

If you experience any of the following symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention:

Severe itching or pain: Persistent and debilitating itching or pain

Bleeding or discharge: Any unusual bleeding or discharge from the vagina

Swelling or blisters: Significant swelling or the formation of blisters

Open sores: If the skin becomes broken or develops sores

Infection: Signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus

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