Vulvitis is inflammation of the vulva, the external female mammalian genitalia that include the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, and introitus (the entrance to the vagina). It may co-occur as vulvovaginitis with vaginitis, inflammation of the vagina, and may have infectious or non-infectious causes.
Vulvitis, inflammation of the vulva, can have a variety of etiologies in children and adolescents, including allergic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, lichen sclerosus, and infections with bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Dermatitis in infants is commonly caused by a soiled diaper being left on for an extended period of time. Increasing the frequency of diaper changes and topical application of emollients are sufficient to resolve most cases. Dermatitis of the vulva in older children is usually caused by exposure to an irritant (e.g. scented products that come into contact with the vulva, laundry detergent, soaps, etc.) and is treated with preventing exposure and encouraging sitz baths with baking soda as the vulvar skin heals. Other treatment options for vulvar dermatitis include oral hydroxyzine hydrochloride or topical hydrocortisone.
Lichen sclerosus is another common cause of vulvitis in children, and it often affects an hourglass or figure eight-shaped area of skin around the anus and vulva. Symptoms of a mild case include skin fissures, loss of skin pigment (hypopigmentation), skin atrophy, a parchment-like texture to the skin, dysuria, itching, discomfort, and excoriation. In more severe cases, the vulva may become discolored, developing dark purple bruising (ecchymosis), bleeding, scarring, attenuation of the labia minora, and fissures and bleeding affecting the posterior fourchette. Its cause is unknown, but likely genetic or autoimmune, and it is unconnected to malignancy in children. If the skin changes are not obvious on visual inspection, a biopsy of the skin may be performed to acquire an exact diagnosis. Treatment for vulvar lichen sclerosus may consist of topical hydrocortisone in mild cases, or stronger topical steroids (e.g. clobetasol propionate). Preliminary studies show that 75% of cases do not resolve with puberty.
Organisms responsible for vulvitis in children include pinworms (Enterobius vermicularis), Candida yeast, and group A hemolytic Streptococcus. Though pinworms mainly affect the perianal area, they can cause itching and irritation to the vulva as well. Pinworms are treated with albendazole. Vulvar Candida infections are uncommon in children, and generally occur in infants after antibiotic therapy, and in children with diabetes or immunodeficiency. Candida infections cause a red raised vulvar rash with satellite lesions and clear borders, and are diagnosed by microscopically examining a sample treated with potassium hydroxide for hyphae. They are treated with topical butoconazole, clotrimazole, or miconazole. Streptococcus infections are characterized by a dark red discoloration of the vulva and introitus, and cause pain, itching, bleeding, and dysuria. They are treated with antibiotics.