About female genital eczema
With any genital condition it is important that you have the correct diagnosis made by your doctor so that any possible underlying conditions can be identified and treated. Please do not feel embarrassed about asking for a proper examination to be performed. There are different types of eczema that could affect the genital area, including atopic eczema, seborrhoeic dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis.
How is it treated?
If you experience genital irritation, it is better to seek medical help than to self-medicate, since some over-the-counter treatments contain potentially allergenic and irritant ingredients. Your doctor will usually prescribe emollients and topical steroids to treat genital and perianal eczema.
Emollients can be applied to the genital area as often as required. They should be re-applied after bathing and showering. Use emollients as soap substitutes and avoid all soap and cosmetic washes. It is also a good idea to wash with emollients after opening your bowels to prevent infection when the skin is red and sore.
Steroids are safe to use in the genital area as long as they are of the correct strength and are used appropriately. The skin here can absorb topical steroids more readily than in other parts of the body and topical steroids should therefore be used carefully in the genital area. They only need to be used once or twice a day, as prescribed, and a 30g tube should normally last at least 3 months.
It is also important to avoid prolonged or overuse of combination steroid preparations, in particular those containing certain antibiotics such as neomycin, which may cause allergic contact dermatitis. If combined topical steroids and antibiotic creams are prescribed for infection, they should be used for a maximum of 14 days, after which you should return to using plain topical steroids if the eczema is still flaring.
Ointment-based topical treatments contain fewer potential allergens than creams, so are especially suitable for sensitive areas. Since ointments are greasy, they generally spread easily and are well-absorbed. However, creams are easier to spread on hair-bearing skin.
Remember, if you have genital eczema, itching may also occur due to yeast infections (thrush) and STIs, which can cause intense itch and invariably make genital eczema worse. If you have any symptoms (e.g. a cottage-cheeselike or offensive discharge), ask a healthcare professional for further advice.
For more information on female genital eczema, please see our Female genital eczema factsheet