The commonest causes of symptomatic vulvar disease: a dermatologist's perspective

Australas J Dermatol. 1996 Feb;37(1):12-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-0960.1996.tb00988.x.


A prospective study of 141 consecutive adult patients with chronic vulvar symptoms referred to a dermatologist was carried out to determine the commonest conditions seen. Eighty-nine per cent of patients underwent vulvar biopsy. The commonest cause of chronic vulvar symptoms in this group of patients was dermatitis, seen in 54% of patients. The other commonly seen conditions were lichen sclerosus (13%), chronic vulvovaginal candidiasis (10%), dysaesthetic vulvodynia (9%) and psoriasis (5%). Although 38% of patients had previously been diagnosed as suffering from human papillomavirus (HPV) vulvitis, histopathological evidence of HPV was seen in only 5%. All cases showing HPV also demonstrated spongiotic dermatitis on biopsy. In this study group, a majority (overall 72%) of patients with a chronic vulvar complaint had a corticosteroid responsive dermatosis rather than a gynaecological condition. The patients with HPV on biopsy also responded to topical corticosteroids, and it was concluded that their symptoms may have been due to dermatitis unrelated to the presence of HPV. In such patients, the assumption that 'subclinical HPV' is a cause of symptoms and the practice of focusing medical and particularly surgical treatment on eradication of the virus may be inappropriate. A review of the commonest vulvar conditions seen by the author is presented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Candidiasis, Vulvovaginal / diagnosis
  • Candidiasis, Vulvovaginal / physiopathology
  • Candidiasis, Vulvovaginal / therapy
  • Dermatitis* / epidemiology
  • Dermatitis* / etiology
  • Dermatitis* / physiopathology
  • Dermatitis* / therapy
  • Dermatology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pruritus Vulvae / diagnosis
  • Pruritus Vulvae / epidemiology
  • Pruritus Vulvae / physiopathology
  • Vulva / microbiology
  • Vulva / pathology
  • Vulvar Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Vulvar Diseases* / etiology
  • Vulvar Diseases* / physiopathology
  • Vulvar Diseases* / therapy
  • Vulvitis / diagnosis
  • Vulvitis / physiopathology
  • Vulvitis / therapy