7 common skin conditions that can affect the vulva
“Vulva and vagina are different. People often use the word vagina as a catchall, but that's not correct,” said Dr Archana Nirula, a renowned gynaecologist associated with myUpchar. “The part of genitalia that touches your clothes or can be seen from outside is the vulva and the vagina is a muscular canal that connects vulva to the uterus,” she added.
The vulva — which includes the labia, clitoris, the Bartholin glands, and the opening to the vagina — protects the internal sexual organs and urinary opening in females. It has pubic hair and fat tissues for cushioning. And just like the skin on any other part of the body, vulvar skin is also vulnerable to infections and skin conditions.
We asked Dr Nirula to tell us about some vulvar skin conditions and remedies for them. Here’s what she had to say:
1. Folliculitis: The follicles of pubic hair can get inflamed and appear as small, red bumps that can sometimes be painful. This condition is called folliculitis.
What causes it: Shaving or waxing pubic hair. It can also occur due to friction caused by body-hugging clothes.
Remedy: Maintaining good hygiene and wearing loose clothes helps in fast healing. Usually, the bumps go away on their own. Consult a gynaecologist, if they do not diminish in a few days.
2. Contact dermatitis: It is an irritation of the skin. The irritant could vary from soaps to fabrics and perfumes. The symptoms include itching, stinging, burning and even pain.
What causes it: Contact between vulvar skin and an irritant like perfume or soap.
Remedy: Leaving the area undisturbed (don’t rub) and wearing cotton underwear for a few days should hasten the healing process. You can also gently wash the area with lukewarm water and softly apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly on the affected skin. In severe cases, it is advisable to seek medical attention.
3. Bartholin's cyst: Bartholin’s glands can be found on either side of the vagina. They lubricate the vagina during sex. If there’s an obstruction in the glands, the lubricating fluid can gather inside them rather than going into the vag. This fluid buildup can lead to swelling near the vaginal opening and eventually cause cysts to form inside the glands. Patients don't experience pain unless the cyst gets too big or becomes infected.
What causes it: An injury, a sexually transmitted infection such as gonorrhoea or chlamydia or even a simple E. Coli bacterial infection can sometimes lead to an obstruction in the glands.
Remedy: If you don't feel any pain, a warm compress or sitting for a while in a tub with warm water can help to clear the blockage. In case of an infected cyst, consult a gynaecologist - he/she can drain the pus, if necessary.
4. Lichen sclerosus: White patches in the vulvar skin with small creases and wrinkles could be a sign of Lichen sclerosus. Patients often experience intense itching, burning, pain and vaginal tears during intercourse. According to the US’ National Organization for Rare Disorders, “If the disease is severe, even minor abrasions or chaffing can cause bleeding, tearing, and blistering.”
What causes it: The exact cause of this condition isn’t known. However, medical researchers say that it might be the result of an overactive immune system or hormonal imbalance. This condition is usually seen in patients with psoriasis - a non-communicable condition in which the skin cells grow and die very fast. Older women who have hit menopause are at higher risk, though this condition has been seen in men and children, too.
Remedy: Lichen sclerosus should be treated promptly. Typically, steroids are prescribed for topical application. See a doctor immediately.
5. Lichen planus: Lichen planus can look different in different parts of the body. If it affects the hair, skin or nails, it looks like purplish lesions that are often itchy. In the mouth and on the vulva, it looks like white lacy patches. Burning, itching, soreness, unusual discharge and painful sores are some of the symptoms to watch out for.
What causes it: A previous Hepatitis C infection, a bad reaction to the flu vaccine or some medicines such as ibuprofen or arthritis drugs can trigger an abnormal immune response. When the body’s immune cells start attacking the skin and mucous membranes, it can lead to Lichen planus.
Remedy: Treatment includes steroidal ointments. Sadly, lichen planus takes a longish time to subside. Visit your doctor without delay if you notice any signs of this disorder.
6. Vulvar dystrophy: Also known as dermatoses, this condition is marked by unusual changes in the vulvar skin: it may appear white or have grey thickened patches that may be itchy.
What causes it: The reason is not known, but doctors think that irritation of the skin might induce the condition.
Remedy: Steroidal ointment is the mainstay treatment. If this condition goes untreated, vulvar dystrophy can cause scarring and shrinkage in the vulvar folds.
7. Genital warts: This a sexually transmitted disease caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). Genital warts appear as a small growth or lump in the vulvar or anal region. Itching and bleeding are common in this condition. Patients may also notice a change in their pee flow. For example, their pee might flow sideways due to the presence of a wart.
What causes it: Having unprotected sex with someone who already has the infection.
Remedy: Visit a gynaecologist, who may prescribe ointments, freezing, surgery or laser therapy for proper treatment.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on Vaginal Health.
The information provided here is intended to provide free education about certain medical conditions and certain possible treatment. It is not a substitute for examination, diagnosis, treatment, and medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. If you believe you, your child or someone you know suffers from the conditions described herein, please see your health care provider immediately. Do not attempt to treat yourself, your child, or anyone else without proper medical supervision. You acknowledge and agree that neither myUpchar nor firstpost is liable for any loss or damage which may be incurred by you as a result of the information provided here, or as a result of any reliance placed by you on the completeness, accuracy or existence of any information provided herein.
Updated Date: Nov 25, 2019 17:34:41 IST
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