The skin of the vulva is very unique in its location, structure, function and sensitivity and is susceptible to a variety of adverse effects which may be both intrinsic and extrinsic. The common conditions to affect the vulvar skin have already been outlined in the previous section. Once a diagnosis of the underlying condition affecting the vulva has been made, the appropriate treatment can be instituted but this needs to be combined with the proper care to be applied to the vulvar skin. The skin of the vulva is very sensitive and highly innervated so that symptoms will persist unless great care is taken not to aggravate the underlying disorder. Information for vulvar skin care include:
- Do not use soap to wash the vulvar skin.
- Do not use bubble bath, feminine hygiene or perfumed products.
- Do not overwash the genital area, once daily is sufficient.
- Do not douche or wash out the vagina. It is totally unnecessary.
- Use cotton menstrual pads and tampons and make sure these items are not fragranced.
- Use soft, white hypoallergenic and unscented toilet paper.
- Attend to hygiene by washing with saline either every night or twice daily during the acute phase. Saline can be made at home by adding 2 teaspoons of salt to1 litre of lukewarm water in a bowl. Use a soft face washer to bathe and cleanse the vulva and then dry gently with a soft towel or hairdryer.
Clothing and laundry
- Wear white cotton underwear and avoid synthetic undergarments.
- Rinse undergarments well to remove all detergents and chemical irritants.
- Do not wear pantyhose but use thigh or knee high stockings instead.
- Do not wear tight jeans, try to wear loose fitting pants or skirts.
- Do not have intercourse if experiencing symptoms of pain, soreness or itch on the vulva.
- Do not have intercourse if not appropriately aroused or lubricated beforehand.
- Do not use artificial lubricants such as KY jelly as these irritate and aggravate further any pre-existing skin condition.
Physical activity and sleep
- Use exercise clothing that is non irritating and avoid synthetic lycra products.
- Have a saline wash or plain water wash especially after intense exercise.
- Avoid swimming in chlorinated pools or immediately after have a saline wash.
- Have a saline wash prior to going to sleep at night.
- Use a blanket to sleep at night and avoid doonas.
Use of medications on genital area
- Do not self treat with antifungal creams for suspected vaginal candidiasis.
- Always have a swab done to confirm the clinical suspicion of a fungal infection before instituting treatment.
- Only use medications in the genital area that have been prescribed.
- If at any time you have a flare up of symptoms, immediately arrange for a swab to be done to exclude infection as the cause of this.