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Author: Vanessa Ngan, Staff Writer, 2003.
Plasma cell disorders usually present as persistent, well-defined irritable red patches on the genitals. It is called plasma cell balanitis in men and plasma cell vulvitis in women because of the numerous plasma cells seen on skin biopsy. A plasma cell is a type of white blood cell found in some inflammatory conditions.
In males, plasma cell balanitis is usually a single glistening orange-red plaque. In women there are usually several patches. Patients may have no symptoms but they may complain of tenderness and/or slight itchiness.
The cause of plasma cell balanitis/vulvitis is not known. The finding of plasma cells in a skin biopsy may be quite non-specific and may be a reactive response to an infection, irritation or injury. Several cases diagnosed originally as plasma cell balanitis/vulvitis turn out later to be other skin diseases such as an infection, allergic contact dermatitis, psoriasis, lichen planus or penile or vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia.
Plasma cell balanitis/vulvitis can look similar to other skin conditions affecting the penis or the vulva. Characteristic histopathological features on skin biopsy of the area may be recommended by the dermatologist to help make the diagnosis and plan treatment.
Topical steroid cream can be useful in some cases. This is applied as a thin smear on the patch for a few days. Treatment is repeated as necessary and may be required on several days each week. Other treatments reported to be of benefit in some cases include:
Vulvovaginal Disorders: an algorithm for basic adult diagnosis and treatment —ISSVD
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