Study objective: To examine the etiology, clinical course, and outcomes of non-sexually transmitted vulvar ulcers in young females.
Design: A prospective cohort study of subjects referred to a tertiary center who had active vulvar ulcers and no evidence of sexually transmitted infections were evaluated with a structured clinical and laboratory protocol and followed with visits or telephone calls.
Results: Twenty eligible subjects had a mean age of 14 years (range 10-19), and five were premenarchal. Nineteen reported systemic symptoms such as fever, malaise, and headache. Most ulcers were >1cm in diameter (range 0.3-5 cm) and were located on the medial aspect of the labia minora. All viral, bacterial, and fungal cultures were negative. Serologic testing for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection demonstrated 10 subjects with evidence of prior infection, two with acute infection, one indeterminate, and seven negative for infection. Two subjects had evidence of possible acute cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection. Other laboratory findings were nonspecific. The median duration of pain was 10 days (range 6-30), and 75% healed by 21 days. Follow up was available for 19 subjects (median 14 months). Seven experienced recurrent ulcers 2-16 months after the initial episode, and 10 had experienced oral aphthous ulcers. None met criteria for other etiologies of vulvar ulcers reported in the literature.
Conclusions: No single infectious agent was identified as a cause of vulvar ulcers. Most cases were not temporally associated with either acute EBV or CMV infection. These ulcers are consistent with aphthous major or complex aphthosis that arise in response to acute illness.