Contact dermatitis of the vagina is a skin condition that is caused by irritants and allergens. Contrary to what you might think, it is not caused by an infection or a sexually transmitted infection, nor is it caused by ‘thrush’.
The skin of your vulva and vagina is very sensitive and can easily be irritated by many everyday products, especially if they are used over a long period of time.
There are many symptoms of contact dermatitis vagina. The most common signs are itching and burning sensations that vary from very mild to severe. You may notice swelling or reddening of the skin around the vagina and the skin may start to thicken. Because of the constant irritation, the skin will feel raw and it may begin to ‘weep’, leaving you feeling damp. This dampness is often mistaken for discharge emanating from the vagina itself and is often blamed for the symptoms.
In more serious, chronic cases that have been left untreated for some length of time pain may be experienced when inserting tampons or when having intercourse.
Contact dermatitis is caused when the skin around the vagina comes into contact with a substance that irritates it.
There are also a number of allergens that can cause contact dermatitis, including benzocaine, Neomycin, Chlorhexidine (in K-Y Jelly), Imidazole antifungal, Propylene glycol preservative, tea tree oil, latex (in condoms and diaphragms).
You should attend your doctor for a definitive diagnosis of this condition. Your doctor will examine the skin around your vagina, vulva and anal area to look for the usual skin changes that are associated with contact dermatitis.
A small swab may be taken from your vagina to obtain a sample of cells from the vaginal wall. This sample will be tested to check for infection and for signs of abnormalities within the cells.
The first course of action in treating contact dermatitis is to remove the likely irritant that is causing the condition.
You may be prescribed a steroid ointment to reduce any itching, burning, and swelling. Apply petroleum jelly liberally between applications of steroid ointment to act as a barrier to irritants.
Soaking in a lukewarm bath to which a few tablespoons of baking soda have been added can help to soothe any itching and burning. Soak for 15 minutes two or three times a day.
In addition to avoiding using any of the aforementioned irritants, there are a few things that you can do to maintain good skin condition around your genitals and prevent the recurrence of contact dermatitis.
Instead of wearing nylon or synthetic fabric underwear, change to pure cotton instead. Cotton is less likely to make you sweat and also wicks away moisture, helping to keep the area fresh and dry. Alternatively, don’t wear underwear at all when possible. Wear loose clothing to allow a free flow of air around your genitals; this prevents you becoming hot and sweaty.
When washing your vaginal area, use your hands instead of a washcloth and choose a non-alkaline, unscented cleansing product or just plain water. Soak the area in tepid water for a few minutes to lift any sweat or product residue, and then pat dry with a soft towel. Use plain petroleum jelly or olive oil to moisturize the area or just use a spray bottle with clean, plain water.
Contact dermatitis of the vagina is caused by the area coming into contact with an irritant or irritants.
If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, ask your doctor’s advice and immediately stop using any of the likely culprits as mentioned above.