Living Reference Work Entry

Handbook of Gynecology

pp 1-11

Date: Latest Version

Benign Diseases of the Vulva

  • Sigita CahoonAffiliated withDepartment of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Southern California Email author 


Many benign diseases can affect the vulva. These varied conditions can present similarly, often with pain, burning, pruritus, vaginal discharge, and dyspareunia. Physical exam findings can be nonspecific, with erythema, excoriations, and lichenification. Contact dermatitis is a frequent cause of vulvar pruritus and pain, and nearly all topical vaginal products can cause irritation. Removal of common irritants usually results in disease resolution. Lichen simplex chronicus is a condition characterized by severe pruritus leading to a persistent itch-scratch cycle. Lichen planus is a chronic, immune-mediated dermatosis presenting with pruritic papules on the vulvar skin and white lacy striae on mucosal surfaces. Lichen sclerosus is an immune-mediated disorder that results in waxy white “cigarette paper” changes to vulvar skin and can also affect the perianal region resulting in a classic “figure of eight” appearance. Patients with lichen sclerosus should be followed closely due to an increased risk of vulvar squamous cell carcinoma. Psoriasis is a dermatologic condition which can manifest as painful and pruritic vulvar erythema. Topical corticosteroids are the first-line therapy for lichen simplex chronicus, lichen planus, lichen sclerosus, and vulvar psoriasis. Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) is a premalignant condition which can present variably with raised or flat lesions, ranging in color from white to red or black. It can be associated with carcinogenic human papillomavirus (HPV) infections as well as with vulvar dermatoses. All cases should be treated, and options range from excision, to laser ablation, to topical medical therapy with Imiquimod. Patients remain at risk for recurrence and require continued surveillance.


Vulva Dermatoses Contact dermatitis Lichen simplex chronicus Lichen planus Lichen sclerosus Psoriasis Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia VIN