Plasma cell vulvitis

Plasma cell vulvitis

What is plasma cell vulvitis?

Plasma cell vulvitis (PCV) is an inflammatory condition that can affect both the vulva and vagina. It is not particularly common.

What problems does it cause?

Patients with PCV describe vulval burning and pain. Occasionally there will be some itching. Sometimes there may be some spotting or a rust-coloured discharge. If the vagina is involved, then a yellow discharge may be noticeable.

How is the diagnosis made?

The diagnosis is sometimes made clinically. On examining the genital area, red spots or a rust-coloured area may be seen, often around the urethra (where the urine comes out). This area may be tender to touch.

Your doctor may recommend that a biopsy of the abnormal area be taken to confirm the diagnosis. This may be performed in an outpatient setting under local anaesthetic. The local anaesthetic will sting a little before the area goes numb. A small (4mm) piece of skin will be removed and sent to the laboratory to be examined under the microscope. The result may take a week to be available.

Plasma cell vulvitis has characteristic features on histopathology, but in some cases the diagnosis may remain uncertain.

Treatment of plasma cell vulvitis

Treatment of PCV is determined by the patient's symptoms. Potent topical steroid ointments are applied, usually at night, to the vulval skin and into the vagina, if necessary, to control the burning/spotting/discharge. Steroids are anti-inflammatory agents. Your doctor may also recommend the application of a barrier cream such as petroleum jelly every morning to help control your symptoms.

PCV often persists for several years or longer. Therefore symptoms may need to be managed with regular application of ointment. Regular check-ups are advisable.