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Vulvar problems

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The vulva is the external genital portion of a female containing the pubis, clitoris, labia and the opening of the vagina and urethra. Vulvar problems are associated with infections, pain, trauma and many other medical conditions.


Common types of vulvar problems

Infections: Microbial infections from yeast, bacteria as well as virus. Vulvovaginitis, thrush, candidiasis, trichomoniasis, gential herpes and warts, Chlamydia, etc. are other types of sexually transmitted diseases.

Skin problems: The skin of your vulva can be irritated from detergents, chemicals and soaps. Psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema can also occur in the vulva

Some other diseases of the vulva: 

  • Varicella- formation of vesicles in the vulva
  • Vulvodynia- chronic pain in the vulva
  • Vulval intraepithelial neoplasia- premalignant condition caused by HPV virus
  • Cancer in vulva- squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma 


Symptoms of vulvar problems

Apart from the vulva, the painful symptoms might also spread to the surrounding areas of the genitals that commonly includes the vagina. 

  • Irritation, itching, burning sensation
  • Pain, swelling, soreness and tenderness
  • Occurrence of painful lesion, pus filled vesicles, lumps
  • Spotting, bleeding from the vagina
  • Foul smell from the vulva and the vagina
  • Unusual changes in the vaginal discharge
  • Burning while urinating
  • Pain while having sexual intercourse

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Risk factors for vulvar problems
  • Family history of vulvar cancer and atrophy
  • Sensitivity to chemicals, allergens, detergents and perfumes personal hygiene products or some kind of allergy
  • Low estrogen levels
  • Compromised personal hygiene- wearing unclean undergarments, using the same sanitary napkin or tampon for long time
  • Multiple sexual partners, unprotected sex with partners having STI or STD, heavy smokers, drug addicts.
  • History of sexually transmitted disease


When to see a doctor?

You must see a doctor if you are experiencing unusual discomfort in and around your vulva.


Diagnosis of vulvar problems

Your doctor will evaluate the symptoms, check your medical history including STD, and ask you questions regarding your daily personal care habits. Tell your doctor if you suspect of some activity that might have caused the infection.

Pelvic examination will be performed with the help of a probe or magnifying glass. Diagnostic tests like CT scan, ultrasonography and MRI might be suggested.

The vaginal discharge will be collected for studying bacterial infections.

Your doctor might use local anaesthesia in the vulvar region before performing biopsy. It is done for diagnosing cancer, neoplasia, etc.


Treatment for vulvar problems

If the problem is minor, your doctor may not suggest any treatment, rather simple change in lifestyle and day to day habits would help.

Some common treatment options for infections and pain are: 

  • Topical antimicrobial creams and ointments for treating the infections.
  • Oral antibiotics may also be prescribed for treating microbial infections
  • Oral NSAIDs, estrogen cream, cortisone ointments or steroid injections would be suggested depending on the complexity of the vulvar problem

Surgical options are not resorted to until there’s a dire emergency. It includes vulvectomy, skin grafting and ablation. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be opted for treating vulvar cancer.


Self care for vulvar problems
  • Wear loose fitting freshly cleaned cotton undergarments. Make sure it’s completely dry all time
  • Avoid using perfumed sanitary napkins and products. Use mild soap for rinsing
  • Take warm wet compress with a soft towel to alleviate pain
  • Stop smoking. Use condoms while having intercourse

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: March 27, 2014

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