The vulva is the collective name for all parts of the external area of the female genitals covering:
- The clitoris
- Labia majora
- Labia minora
- The vestibule
- The perinium
- The urinary opening.
The vulva isn’t an area that’s commonly on display, so changes might not be immediately visible but as it can be susceptible to a range of health conditions, it’s important that you’re familiar with what the area looks and feels like. If you notice any significant changes, make an appointment with your GP for further investigation.
Possible vulval conditions
Dermatitis, psoriasis, lichen sclerosus and lichen planus are all conditions which display themselves in symptoms such as itching, stinging or burning or dry, flaky skin. While this could be as harmless as an allergy to detergent, soap or lubrication; it could also be a sign of a more serious condition which carries a risk of vulvar cancer.
Once diagnosed, treatments for vulvar skin conditions can be as simple as changing products or a more complex diagnosis might be treated with steroid cream or antibiotic medication.
The vulva is susceptible to infection which might display itself as itching, burning, changes in discharge, skin tags like warts or blisters. Possible infections include thrush, genital herpes or genital warts. While most infections are harmless, if you notice any of those symptoms you’ll need a thorough examination from your GP to receive medication and to rule out any more serious health concerns.
Vulval cancer is categorised by the cells it originates from.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common form of vulvar cancer which originates in the skin. Melanoma (pigment), lymphoma (immune cells) and basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) are much rarer but are characterised by the same changes in the vulvar so it’s important that you visit your GP with vulvar complaints that don’t clear up.
Diagnosis of vulval conditions
When you visit your GP, your vulval condition may be diagnosed with a physical examination, a biopsy of any lumps, and a swab test to identify any infection. These tests are routine and could make a noticeable difference in your overall health so ensure you follow through and find out what is causing you discomfort.
Due to the excess bacteria that’s present in the vulval area, it’s vital that hygiene remains impeccable to minimise the risk of avoidable infection.
If you’ve noticed a change in the vulval area, a confidential appointment at your GP will help to clarify your condition and provide treatment to clear it up as quickly and painlessly as possible.