What causes vaginal rash?
Vaginal rashes can be caused by non-infectious conditions, such as allergic reactions, irritation, or inflammation, or by infectious conditions. Many of the infectious conditions are spread sexually, although some are not.
Infectious causes of vaginal rash
Vaginal rash may be caused by infections including:
- Genital herpes (sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 or 2)
- Granuloma inguinale (sexually transmitted infection that is rare in the United States)
- Human papilloma virus (HPV, the virus that causes genital warts)
- Molluscum contagiosum (skin infection caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus)
- Pubic lice (also called “crabs”; parasitic insects that live in the pubic hair)
- Scabies (contagious skin disease caused by small mites)
- Syphilis (sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum)
- Yeast infection
Other causes of vaginal rash
Vaginal rash can also be caused by other diseases, disorders or conditions including:
- Allergic reactions
- Atopic dermatitis or eczema
- Chemical irritants, such as soaps, feminine hygiene products, perfumes, lubricants, douches, or creams
- Lichen simplex chronicus (chronic skin condition associated with itching and scratching and thickening of the skin)
- Psoriasis (itchy skin condition associated with skin irritation and redness, often with areas of thickened, red skin with white flaky patches)
Questions for diagnosing the cause of vaginal rash
To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your vaginal rash including:
- When did you first notice the vaginal rash?
- Have you changed soaps or detergents lately or started using any genital hygiene products?
- Have you had a vaginal rash before?
- Is there anything that seems to make it better or worse?
- Do you have any other symptoms?
- Have you been intimate with anyone who has similar symptoms?
- Are other areas of your body affected?
- What medications are you taking?
What are the potential complications of vaginal rash?
Because vaginal rash can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:
- Secondary or tertiary syphilis (complications of untreated syphilis, including rashes, heart disease, neurologic disease, or tumors of the skin, bone or liver)
- Secondary skin infection (infection that develops on top of the current condition, often due to scratching)
- Spread of infectious disease to close contact or sexual partner
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/sexually_transmitted_diseases.cfm. Accessed May 13, 2011.
Sexually transmitted diseases. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/sexuallytransmitteddiseases.html. Accessed May 13, 2011.
What is vaginal rash?
Although vaginal rashes can be related to noninfectious conditions, such as allergic reactions and contact dermatitis, many are due to sexually transmitted infections. The area around the vagina may be reddened with blisters or sores, or it may retain its normal color but have bumps present. Other symptoms, such as discharge, pain, burning with urination, or itching, may also occur.
What other symptoms might occur with vaginal rash?
A vaginal rash may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Conditions that cause vaginal rashes can cause other vaginal or vulvar symptoms or affect other body systems.