Vulvitis in Teens

What is vulvitis in teens?

Vulvitis is an inflammation of the vulva. The vulva is the outer part of the female reproductive system. It’s also called the external genitalia. The labia majora and labia minora are 2 folds of skin that are part of the vulva. The outer folds are called the labia majora. The inner folds are called the labia minora.

Vulvitis causes symptoms such as redness, swelling, itching, and pain. It can be caused by diseases, infections, injuries, allergies, and other irritants. It's often hard to find the specific cause of vulvitis.

What causes vulvitis in a teen?

Vulvitis can be caused by the skin reacting to an irritant. Some of these include:

  • Scented or colored toilet paper

  • Perfumed soaps or bubble baths

  • Laundry detergents, especially enzyme-activated cold water formulas

  • Vaginal sprays, deodorants, and powders

  • Spermicides

  • Condoms

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

  • Tampons and pads

  • Antibacterial or anti-fungal cream or ointment

  • Cream or ointment medicine to treat genital warts

  • Douching

  • Hot tub and swimming pool water

  • Horseback riding

It can also be caused by:

  • Infections from pubic lice or mites (scabies) 

  • Infections such as trichomoniasis, herpes, syphilis, HPV, molluscum contagiosum, and fungal infection

  • Skin problems such as psoriasis

  • Crohn's disease

Which teens are at risk for vulvitis?

A teen is more at risk for vulvitis if they have certain allergies, sensitivities, infections, or diseases that can lead to vulvitis. Teens who have not yet reached puberty and adults after menopause are more at risk for vulvitis. This may be because of lower levels of estrogen.

What are the symptoms of vulvitis in a teen?

Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each teen. Symptoms on the vulva can include:

  • Redness and swelling

  • Severe itching

  • Clear, fluid-filled blisters

  • Sore, scaly, thick, or whitish patches

These symptoms can be caused by other health conditions. Make sure your child sees their healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is vulvitis diagnosed in a teen?

The healthcare provider will ask about your teen’s symptoms and health history. They will give your teen a physical exam. The physical exam may include a pelvic exam. Your teen may also have tests, such as:

  • Blood tests

  • Urine test

  • Tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

  • Small piece of vulva tissue removed for testing (biopsy)

How is vulvitis treated in a teen?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is, and what caused it. Treatment may include:

  • Sitz baths to help soothe itching

  • Cream to soothe irritated skin

  • Steroid or antifungal cream or ointment to treat an infection

  • Medicine taken by mouth (oral) to treat infection or other cause

Your teen should not have contact with any irritants that may have caused the problem.

Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all medicines.

How can I help prevent vulvitis in my teen?

Vulvitis caused by irritants can be prevented by not having contact with them.

When should I call my teen’s healthcare provider?

Call the healthcare provider if you have:

  • Symptoms that don’t get better, or get worse

  • New symptoms

Key points about vulvitis in teens

  • Vulvitis is an inflammation of the vulva.

  • Vulvitis causes symptoms such as redness, swelling, itching, and pain.

  • It can be caused by diseases, infections, injuries, allergies, and other irritants.

  • Treatment can include sitz baths and cream or ointment.

  • Your child should not have contact with any irritants that may have caused the problem.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.

  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.

  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are and when they should be reported.

  • Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.

  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.

  • Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.

  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.

  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours, and on weekends and holidays. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Irina Burd MD PhD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2023
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