What are Vulva Abnormalities?
The vulva is the external part of female genitalia that protects the female sexual organs and urinary opening.
Anatomy of the Vulva
The vulva consists of:
Labia: These are folds of skin that surround the vagina which include labia majora (outer lips) and labia minora (inner lips).
Clitoris: It is a spongy tissue present at the top of the vulva where the inner lips meet.
Urethral opening: It is the opening located just below the clitoris through which urination occurs.
Vaginal opening: It is the opening below the urethral opening through which mensural blood passes out of the body and babies are born.
Types of Vulva Abnormalities
The vulva is prone to several infections or disorders including:
Yeast Infections: These are fungal infections that cause vulvar redness, itching, swelling, white clumpy discharge, and pain during urination and sex.
Herpes: It is a sexually transmitted viral infection that causes itching and painful ulcers that resemble small blisters.
Contact Dermatitis: This condition is caused by exposure of the vulva to allergens or chemicals in perfumes, soaps, etc. Symptoms include itching, burning, and pain.
Bacterial Vaginosis: It is the inflammation of the vagina caused due to overgrowth of bacteria normally present in the vagina. You could notice grey, green or white discharge and a burning sensation.
Lichen Sclerosus: This condition commonly occurs in post-menopausal women. Shiny, smooth spots appear on the vulva which later forms bright red or purple bruises.
Trichomoniasis: It is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a parasite. Symptoms include itching, redness, and painful urination and sex.
Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause (GSM): This syndrome is caused by a decline in sex hormones during perimenopause or menopause leading to infections and various bladder disorders. Symptoms include itching, vaginal dryness, pain during sex, etc.
Vulvar Cancer: This condition is caused by the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in the vulva. Smoking, advanced age, and Human Papillomavirus infection (HPV) infection are the most common causes.
Diagnosis of Vulva Abnormalities
Your healthcare provider will discuss your symptoms and do a pelvic examination.
The diagnostic tests or procedure include:
- Tissue or fluid cultures
- Imaging studies
- Blood tests
- Biopsy of the vulva
Treatment of Vulva Abnormalities
Your treatment plan may include:
- Medications to treat bacterial, parasitic, fungus or viral infections
- Ointments to manage itching, redness, and inflammation
- Exercise to strengthen pelvic muscles
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer
- Surgery to correct structural abnormalities
Prevention of Vulva Abnormalities
Vulva abnormalities can be prevented by:
- Keeping the area clean and dry
- Avoiding the use of harsh chemicals
- Managing diabetes
- Not wearing tight-fitting underwear or clothing
- Avoiding douching and very hot baths
- Changing menstrual pads or tampons frequently
- Practicing safe sex