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Keywords:

  • Childhood;
  • genital findings;
  • sexual abuse;
  • vaginitis;
  • vulvitis

Vulvovaginal symptoms in children and young adolescents are not yet very well understood, nor is the actual incidence known. This study evaluates the character and possible infectious aetiology of vulvar symptoms of females aged up to 16 y. The signs, symptoms and bacteriological findings of 68 consecutive cases were studied. The study was conducted in the University Hospital of Tampere at a special gynaecological consultation clinic for children and adolescents. Sixty-eight patients were included in the study: 48 girls (71%) were prepubertal, at Tanner stage M1P1, 26 patients were 2-4-y-old and 15 were 5-7-y-old. The duration of symptoms was known for 46 patients: 41% had had symptoms for >1 mo and 20% for >6 mo. Forty-eight patients had abnormal clinical findings on examination and 16 (33%) of them had an infectious aetiology. Streptococcus pyogenes infection was identified in 11 (16%) patients, all of whom had symptoms. Candida was identified in 6 (9%) patients. No infectious aetiology was found among 26 patients who had symptoms and abnormal clinical findings. Vulvovaginal symptoms during childhood are more common among younger children (<7 y). In 67% of patients no infectious aetiology could be found. Samples for microbiological culture should be taken from symptomatic patients and symptomatic areas. Cultures of Candida and bacteria are necessary but usually sufficient. If a microbiological aetiology is established, treatment can be assigned accordingly.

Patients with vulvar symptoms and findings but with an unclear aetiology need support and advice on proper hygiene and can intermittently use mild corticosteroids locally.