My Vulva Is Itchy and Red. Gynecology or Dermatology?


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Excellent PDF link:

 

Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Vulval Carcinoma – PDF. Screening vs Dermatologic Conditions.

 

Here’s the scenario we see often: A patient comes in to a gynecologist or pelvic physical therapist with complaints of burning at the vulva (or itching) and painful intercourse. It’s quite possible that the patient has a typical type of presentation such as yeast or fungal infection OR vulvodynia with subsequent spasm of the pelvic floor muscles. However, admittedly anectodally, I have seen far too often in my practice, that the patient actually also has a vulvar dermatological condition, such as Lichens Sclorosus, that is not diagnosed or addressed; or is occurring concomitantly with the aforementioned diagnoses. It’s a very confusing situation so awareness is key here- for patients and treating healthcare professionals. I recently had a patient who was treated for 10+ years for yeast infections, but she actually had an underlying significant case of Lichens Sclerosus that was never addressed. When asked if she was testing positive for yeast infections, she said “no, but the doctor didn’t know what else it could be so they just kept treating me for yeast”.

Many women assume that they only need to see their local GYN and they should have all of the answers. We now see that without specialized training, the various dermatologic conditions can get missed. Consider seeing a dermatologist or gynecologist who has specialized training in vulvar or genital dermatology. This takes some investigation and patient advocacy.

“Vulvar pain and dyspareunia [painful intercourse] are common presenting complaints in the office setting. Vulvar dermatoses must be considered as a part of the differential diagnosis for any woman with sexual dysfunction or pain. A detailed history and physical examination, backed by a confident knowledge of the vulvar dermatoses, will aid in diagnosis and treatment”

Here’s a list of some of the conditions that can be seen in isolation OR together:

Contact dermatitis and other eczema

Dermatitis due to substances taken internally

Dyspareunia

Vulvodynia

Unspecified symptom associated with female genital organs (chronic vulvar pain)

Lichen planus (lichen planopilaris, ruber planus)

Pruritus of genital organs

 

Lichenification and lichen simplex chronicus (Hyde’s disease, neurodermatitis [circumscripta] [local], prurigo nodularis)

Circumscribed scleroderma (lichen sclerosus et atrophicus)

The use of the colposcope or punch biopsies can be very helpful for making these diagnoses.

**Warning- the pictures in the first pdf link are quite graphic and show some of the dermatological conditions at the vulvar area. They are helpful to provide a better perspective on different types of vulvar issues.

38 thoughts on “My Vulva Is Itchy and Red. Gynecology or Dermatology?

  1. Is it OK to continue e-stim and vaginal ball exercise with these symptoms ? Many of the ladies told me they got itchy vulva or have tested to have yeast infection after several times of e-stim. But most of them continue these treatments because doctors told them it doesnot matter. They are more eager to treat the baldder and rectal prolapses.

    • Joy – it’s always best to stop estim if there is an increase in itching, particularly if there’s an underlying GYN or dermatological issue that needs to be addressed. It can be resume once that is resolved. It’s not typical to get yeast infections from the estim (or itching). If this happens a lot, it’s important to figure out why.

      • Thanks for the post. I agree, it seems strange that ctesimmraoing with other women about reproductive woes is such a taboo subject. I want to live in a world where I can complain to any girlfriend about my yeast infection. Maybe not over the dinner table, but I don’t want to have to “feel out” if she’s that kinda girl. You know, who likes to talk about vaginas.Julianabritto.com

  2. I see women with these symptoms and it is often as simple as vaginal atrophy and can be well treated with a product such as Vagifem. Women will often call back astounded with the results! Always do an exam as lichen sclerosus can lead to carcinoma of the vulva and will need ongoing monitoring.

    • This site has a very educational webinar about lichen sclerosus. Thank you for posting the link. The professionals that I have seen so far are not very familiar with this disease or treatment. They probably would not have arrived of the diagnosis of LS if I had not already been diagnosed with Lichen Planus in my gums for which two biopsies were taken. Nor was I educated about the problems that could occur if not treated properly. Some of which have unfortunately occurred in the last year. Thanks to this video, I have a better idea of the questions that I should be asking my doctors and the medication that I should be using and how. It was the information on how to use the medication that was the most enlightening of all. Thank you!

  3. has been going on for about 6 months. It started off as a really bad itch around the vulva and then spread to th perineum. skin in that region is now red and dry. it is very itchy at times and painful after scratching or sex due to stretching of the skin. sometimes it is painful and uncomfortable to walk. i have a lot of discharge now which is sometimes clear or yellow. vagina is constantly very wet(panty liners and/or panties get soaked). I’ve seen a doctor but my discharge was tested and came back normal. I have been tested for candida, vaginitis, trichomoniasis, chlamydia and gonorrhoea but all are negative. what do I do? should I see a dermatologist or a gynaecologist

  4. Dear pelvic guru

    I have such pain, burning, raw, redness in my vagina. I haven’t had sex in over 9 yrs, now divorced. I can’t tolerate pelvic exam w out huge flare. Pain doc is doing perineal nerve block and pelvic floor Botox. But vagina is so bad I can’t walk or stand. She gave me Estrace and then vagifem which both killed me and had flare for over 8 days. Please let me know if you have any further suggestions. Thank you so much!
    Diane

    • Maybe a Vestibulitis specialist. I lost my boyfriend of 7 years but was treated for vestibulitis after seeing 15 gyns that kept telling me I had a damn yeast infection. My favorite was a doctor that told my my vagina was depressed. I wanted to kick him in the face. There’s no good reason why or where it comes from but I finally found a specialist that figured it out. I take meds for it. It did go away for about 2 years but it has flared up again. I have a feeling it is due to stress. I just wanted you to know. I hope this helps

  5. I’ve been diagnosed with Lichen, by an OBGYN, but am in search of a dermatologist in the Omaha area. Any recommendations?

  6. Wow! I have been living with this “burning itch” for years! I have seen both GYN’s and dermatologists. I have been given tons of cream that only irritated my condition or increased the pain and discomfort. I have stopped seeking help and was guessing at what might help (medicated powder) until it seemed to spread this past year. The flare ups have increased also. The doctors act as if they know, but in reality, they are just guessing. A dermatologist told me it was psoriasis and gave me a cream. (Bad reaction. The psoriasis on my elbows have gone way down, almost non existent. So maybe it’s not psoriasis at all!). Now, I want to find someone who actually is on top of the research in this area and NOT a doctor who pretends to know everything. Do you have any suggestions in the Cleveland, Ohio area?

      • neither take insurance and are pretty pricy. any other suggestions? thanks really appreciate. i need a formal diagnosis. Can’t seem to get one. Is a dermatologist or gyn better to see?

  7. I find that either a GYN or Derm are fine… The key is to find someone who is an expert on lichens. For example – Dr. Libby Edwards is a dermatologist in NC who specializes in it. I also work with a GYN here in Orlando who is good with it. I’m sorry I don’t know of other names for you currently. I’ll ask my colleagues

    • They haven’t been able to suggest anyone in Cleveland, Ohio yet. I have been asking the hospital systems who specializes in these diseases and the hospitals “confirm or recommend anyone in particular”. Good luck! I hope you have better results than I did with the Cleveland Clinic.

  8. I have vaginal lichen simplex I’m under the hospital for a while it’s been under control
    But lately it’s very sore hurts when I walk. But not itchy help really painful
    Ali

  9. Wow to all of you! I have just started having the burning, redness of the Vulva and my GYN doesn’t know what it is so gave me hydrocortisone. Ha! Jock itch! I don’t think so even though I work out most days. I have in the past year had surgery for prolapse and dropped uretha. Then the issues started, or maybe they’ve been there all along. At this point I don’t know. If anyone know of anyone in GA please let me know. Good luck to you all!

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