Patch testing for vulval symptoms: our experience with 282 patients

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Vulval allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) may be a primary disorder or may be associated with an underlying vulval dermatosis. Few studies have looked at the incidence of ACD and the allergens responsible for it.


We report the incidence of vulval ACD and the responsible allergens in 282 patients investigated over a 6-year period in a large teaching hospital.


We performed a retrospective case notes review of all patients investigated for vulval symptoms in our tertiary referral contact dermatitis investigation unit. A total of 282 patients underwent patch testing.


The overall incidence of ACD was 54%. The age range of patients was 14–89 years. Pruritus was the most common presenting symptom. Nickel was the most commonly found allergen, but was usually not relevant. Fragrances and topical antibiotics/anaesthetics were less commonly detected, but were almost always relevant to the presentation. Positive reactions were more commonly found in patients who had long-standing symptoms and/or had used many products in the vulval area.


Vulval ACD affects women of a wide age range, and presents with nonspecific symptoms such as pruritus and/or vulval irritation. Patients may have experienced symptoms for many years before presenting to a dermatologist. The diagnosis of vulval ACD is more common in those who have been exposed to many potential sensitizers.

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