Vaginal Rashes and Sores

Topic Overview

A rash in your vaginal area (vulva) may be caused by irritation of the skin from many sources, such as clothes rubbing against the skin. Rashes that occur without other symptoms are usually minor and often go away with home treatment.

Contact dermatitis

A common cause of a rash is contact with a substance that causes irritation or an allergic reaction (contact dermatitis). Soaps, detergents, shampoos, perfumes, or lotions can cause contact dermatitis. Often the rash from contact dermatitis is very itchy, but it is rarely serious. Changing your soap or detergent may be all you need to do to prevent this type of rash.

Other rashes in the vaginal area

Other conditions that may cause a rash in the vaginal area include:

  • Scabies, which is an itchy skin condition caused by tiny mites that burrow into the outer layers of the skin.
  • Pubic lice, which are small insects that live on humans and survive by feeding on blood.
  • Yeast infection (cutaneous candidiasis), which may cause a rash in the moist skin folds of the vaginal area.
  • Psoriasis, which causes raised red or white patches topped with silvery, scaling skin. The patches are most common on the knees, elbows, scalp, tailbone, and back, but may appear anywhere on the body (including the fingernails, palms, and soles of the feet).

Sores, blisters, or lumps in the vaginal area

Conditions that may cause a sore, blister, or lump include:

  • Genital herpes. Genital herpes is a viral infection that causes skin blisters and sores in the vaginal area.
  • Genital warts. Genital warts are a sexually transmitted infection (STI). They are caused by various types of human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Bartholin gland cyst. Bartholin glands are two small glands located on each side of the opening of the vagina. These glands produce fluids that lubricate the opening to the vagina. If the opening to one of the glands becomes blocked, fluids may build up inside the gland, causing a painless lump called a Bartholin cyst. Bartholin cysts usually do not need treatment, but sometimes surgery may be needed to drain them. In some cases, one of the glands may become infected, causing an abscess, which may need to be drained.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Sores, blisters, or ulcers, especially in the groin or vaginal area, may be the first symptom of several different STIs.
  • An infected hair shaft (folliculitis). A red, tender lump may form when skin bacteria cause an infection at the base of a hair shaft.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised June 13, 2013

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