Oh, Great: You Can Get Eczema on Your Vulva

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Lots of things can irritate your nether regions, however, so sometimes it can be tough to know what you’re dealing with. Though a derm or ob-gyn can make the final call (and help you find the right treatment), here are three other common culprits to consider:

Yeast infections

This happens when there’s a disruption of your normal, healthy microorganisms, and an overgrowth of certain kinds of yeast, in your vagina. Alongside itchiness, you’ll probably have white, chunky, odorless discharge and sometimes feel a burning sensation while peeing or having sex. While Dr. Kenkare says this *likely* means your issues aren’t eczema-related, a yeast infection can sometimes trigger a flare-up of eczema symptoms or increase discomfort if you’re in the throes of one. But in both cases, “it is not contagious, nor is it a sign of bad hygiene,” Dr. Smith says.

Contact dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic condition, meaning it might recur repeatedly. So if this is a one-off scratching situation and you haven’t been diagnosed with eczema in the past, you might have contact dermatitis, which happens when your skin reacts to something specific, like a new type of laundry detergent or a “cleansing” wipe loaded with fragrances. In this case, identifying what’s bothering you and getting rid of it should solve the urge to scratch, Chris G. Adigun, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist at Dermatology & Laser Center of Chapel Hill in NC, tells SELF.

STIs

While gonorrhea and chlamydia can both cause itchiness around the genitals, they may result in an unusual discharge, sometimes with an odor that eczema wouldn’t cause. You might also experience other problems, like pain during sex, abdominal aches, or a fever. (Although STIs often cause no symptoms at all.) If you’ve been sexually active, particularly with new or multiple partners, and your vulva suddenly feels inflamed, it’s probably a good idea to get tested for STIs just to be 100% sure you aren’t dealing with something that requires antibiotics, Dr. Kenkare advises.

How to soothe an irritated vulva

Fortunately, there are treatments for eczema flare-ups, and the best way to get relief on your vulva isn’t too far off from how you’d deal with itchiness on other body parts, Dr. Adigun says.

If your symptoms are mild—you get tiny, slightly itchy patches every few months or so—Dr. Kenkare says you can manage irritation with some gentle skin care. Her rec: Apply topical petroleum jelly wherever you’re having issues. “People might not realize that an area in the body that can get to be humid and swampy would also require moisturization, but it really does,” Dr. Kenkare says.

Look for products labeled as sensitive or fragrance-free and have the National Eczema Association seal on the bottle. Try not to pat on just any cream or lotion—some contain menthol, for example, which can exacerbate itchiness. The same goes for harsh, perfumy soaps. Also, steer clear of anything that claims to “freshen” things up, like sprays, douches, and powders. (Here are a few tips to safely clean your vagina in general.) Use a fragrance-free laundry detergent made for sensitive skin, Dr. Adigun says. It can also help to wear 100% cotton underwear, as synthetic fibers may make things worse.

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