Eczema around your vagina, called vulvar dermatitis, happens when the soft folds of skin around your vagina become painful, red, and itchy. It causes thin cracks, red patches, vaginal weeping, and crust formation. This condition is treatable with medication and home treatments.
Causes of Vulvar Dermatitis
Eczema can happen from a reaction to irritants. You’ll usually notice burning or stinging right away. This may happen from:
- Soap, bubble baths, bath salts, shampoo, conditioner, or detergent
- Panty liners
- Nylon underwear or other chemically treated clothing
- Vaginal discharges, pee, or sweat
- Perfume, baby powder, or deodorants
- Lubricants or spermicides
- Alcohol or astringents
Some known allergens can also cause vulvar dermatitis. But symptoms might not appear until many days after you encounter one. They include:
- Latex (which is in condoms and diaphragms)
- Tea tree oil
- Propylene glycol (a preservative used in many products)
- Imidazole antifungal
- Chlorhexidine (which is in K-Y Jelly)
But sometimes it’s not possible to discover the cause of your dermatitis.
Symptoms of Vulvar Dermatitis
You may notice symptoms of eczema around your vagina suddenly or more gradually as they get worse over time. Warning signs include:
- Redness and swelling on your vulva
- Mild to severe burning or itching on your vulva
- A raw feeling from vulvar irritation
- A wet or damp feeling from weeping on the irritated skin (you might mistake this for vaginal discharge)
- Pain when using a tampon, speculum, or during sex
Diagnosis and Treatment of Vulvar Dermatitis
If you think you may have vulvar dermatitis, schedule an appointment with your doctor. During your visit, they’ll ask you about your symptoms, if you have a history of eczema, any allergies you have, what your vulvar cleaning habits are, and what products you use around your vagina.
Then, your doctor will do an exam of the skin around your vagina. They’ll look for skin changes such as cracking, thickening, redness, or scaling. They may also test a sample of your vaginal discharge to rule out infection.
If your doctor finds that you have eczema on your vulva, they’ll suggest the next steps for treatment. It’s best to go with your doctor’s recommendations rather than over-the-counter methods since these might have additional allergens or irritants in them.
Your doctor might prescribe a cream to treat your eczema. You should apply the cream to your vulva as often as instructed by your doctor. While you use it, you’ll want to keep stronger soaps and cosmetic washes away from your vaginal area.
Your doctor may also give you a topical steroid. The skin on your vulva will absorb this medication quickly, so it’s important that you use it carefully and as directed. Usually, you should only use these medications once or twice a day. Sometimes your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic with your steroid cream as well. Make sure you follow the directions to avoid further eczema flares.
Home Remedies and Care Tips
In addition to your medication, there are some things you can do at home to keep yourself comfortable. Always talk to your doctor before you begin any at-home treatments like:
Baking soda soaks. You can soak in lukewarm bath water with 4 to 5 tablespoons of baking soda to help soothe your vulvar irritation. Do this one to three times a day for 10 minutes.
Gold Bond or Zeasorb Powder. You can sprinkle these on your underwear to control dampness. Don’t use other forms of powder or cornstarch.
To get the best treatment outcome, follow these care instructions:
- Don’t wash your vaginal area more than once a day. Only use cool water with or without a mild soap.
- Don’t douche or use sprays on your vulvar area.
- Use unscented sanitary pads or tampons during your period.
- Don’t have sex until you feel better.
- Try sleeping without any underwear.
- Wear looser clothing. Stay away from nylon or other fabrics that hold in heat and moisture.