While vulval allergic contact dermatitis may be a primary disorder, it may also be associated with an underlying vulval dermatosis. There have been few studies investigating the incidence of vulval allergic contact dermatitis.
The researchers performed a retrospective case notes review of 282 patients who had been investigated for vulval symptoms and had undergone patch testing in a referral unit for contact dermatitis over a six-year period.
According to the study results, the overall incidence of vulval allergic contact dermatitis was found to be 54%, with pruritus being the most common presenting symptom. While the most commonly found allergen in subjects was nickel, this was not usually relevant. Allergens that were less commonly detected but that were usually found to be relevant to the condition were fragrances and topical antibiotics/anaesthetics. Patients who had chronic symptoms and/or who had used many products in the vulval area were more likely to experience positive reactions.
It appears that vulval allergic contact dermatitis can affect women of any age (the age range in the study was 14-89 years) and the condition is likely to present with pruritus and/or irritation. It is more common in women who have been exposed to many potential allergens and women are likely to have experienced symptoms for several years before consulting a dermatologist.
Al-Niaimi F, Felton S, Williams J. Clin Exp Dermatol. Published online April 23, 2014. doi: 10.1111/ced.12330