Vulvar contact dermatitis (VCD) is a common problem presenting as vulvar pruritus, burning or
irritation. Its estimated prevalence is 20-30% in vulvar clinics, but the prevalence in the
general population is unknown.
Contact dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin resulting from an external agent that acts
as an irritant or as an allergen. The skin reaction may be acute, subacute or chronic,
resulting from prolonged exposure to weak irritating substances.
The most common form of VCD is irritant contact dermatitis, and it usually presents as vulvar
itch. The causes that contribute to VCD are increased sensitivity of the vulvar skin to
irritants compared to other body parts, decrease in the skin barrier function due to exposure
to sweat, urine and vaginal discharge and constant friction of the vulvar area. In menopausal
women, lack of estrogen contributes to tissue atrophy and thinning, and may increase the
effect of irritants on the vulvar skin.
One of the most common irritating substances that cause VCD is urine. The phenomenon of
urine-induced VCD is known as" diaper rash" in babies, and it was also described in bedridden
patients using diapers constantly. Women with urine incontinence (UI), a problem that its
prevalence in women increases with aging, may use constantly panty liners or pads to prevent
urine leakage. The urine is being absorbed in the pad, and the vulvar skin is continually
exposed to urine. This can cause VCD, similar to diaper rash. The prevalence of this
phenomenon in the general population is unknown.
The patients complain of itch, burning or irritation of the vulvar skin, and on exam
erythema, edema and irritated skin are found. As most patients do not connect between UI to
their vulvar disorder, and as most care-givers do not ask routinely about UI, the vulvar
symptoms are mistakenly attributed to yeast infection or other factors. As the cause to the
vulvar complaints is not recognized, patients do not receive proper treatment that requires
primary management of UI.
The aim of the study is to evaluate the prevalence of VCD in women with UI and to recognize
risk factors for UI induced VCD.