Signs and Symptoms of Vaginal Psoriasis
Did you know psoriasis can appear on any part of your body? If you have a psoriasis flare in your genital area, you may feel alarmed, but the fact is psoriasis is not a sexually transmitted disease, and it’s not contagious. Wherever the signs of psoriasis appear, psoriasis is caused by a misfire in the immune system that makes skin cells grow too fast and build up in patches. Because the skin of the vagina is sensitive, vaginal psoriasis may require different treatment than psoriasis in other areas, and it may come with special concerns about intimacy and pregnancy.
What Vaginal Psoriasis Looks Like
Vaginal psoriasis usually appears on the outer skin of the vagina as smooth, red lesions without the scaly plaques normally associated with plaque psoriasis. You may hear the term “inverse” in describing the appearance of vaginal psoriasis. Inverse psoriasis lesions can also appear in other areas of the genitals:
Pubis, the area above the vagina
Vulva, the entrance to the vagina
The crease between the groin and thighs
The anus and skin around it
Psoriasis in the genital area may cause itching. Avoid scratching because it can lead to increased dryness, more itchiness, and infection.
Treating Vaginal Psoriasis
Vaginal psoriasis has signs and symptoms in common with other conditions, so the first step is to see your doctor for an expert diagnosis. Vaginal psoriasis typically responds well to treatment. Because the skin is often covered, it usually absorbs topical treatment quickly and effectively. You may find relief from simply applying a non-prescription moisturizer regularly. Look for fragrance-free lotions to avoid further irritation and ask your dermatologist for a recommendation. Your doctor may also prescribe a topical solution that contains a low dose of corticosteroids. This treatment is usually relatively short-term, because long-term use may thin your skin permanently or cause stretch marks.
Depending on the severity of vaginal psoriasis, ultraviolet (UV) light may be an additional treatment option. UV light is used to treat psoriasis on other parts of the body, but the dose is lower for genital psoriasis to avoid burning the thinner skin. For more severe cases, you might try an oral or injectable medication, like a biologic—a drug that targets the root inflammation of psoriasis to reduce symptoms.
Vaginal Psoriasis and Intimacy
Research from the National Psoriasis Foundation shows that nearly a third of people with psoriasis feel it interferes with their sex life and relationships. Whether you’re playing the field or in a long-term relationship, these tips can help:
Put yourself first—work toward accepting your psoriasis and building your confidence
Tell your partner about your psoriasis when you feel the time is right
Educate your partner that vaginal psoriasis is not contagious
Always practice safe sex, like using a condom; psoriasis patches are more prone to injury during sexual activity, increasing the risk of sexually transmitted infections
Establish open communication for times you need to hit the “pause button” on physical intimacy due to the discomfort of a flare
Look for other ways to connect with your partner, such as simply spending some quality time together
Vaginal Psoriasis and Pregnancy
Don’t worry—vaginal psoriasis doesn’t cause issues with pregnancy, delivery, or the health of your baby. Women can also usually continue UV therapy and topical treatment for genital psoriasis safely. Although psoriasis has a genetic component, you can’t “infect” your baby by giving birth. Always get your doctor’s advice about medication if you think you may be pregnant or plan to start a family.
While a diagnosis of vaginal psoriasis obviously isn’t the best news, it’s also not the worst. Remember, effective treatments are available. The exact cause of psoriasis is also not yet known. Keep in mind you did nothing to get vaginal psoriasis, and there are many ways to feel better about it with the help of your doctor and the support of those closest to you.