Know about common vulvar conditions and tips to ensure proper care

Updated on Sep 21, 2021 03:45 AM IST  |  153.1K
   
Know about common vulvar conditions and tips to ensure proper care
Know about common vulvar conditions and tips to ensure proper care
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There is a common myth that only men suffer from itching at their crotch. In fact, a large percentage of women also suffer from itching. The area surrounding the opening of the vagina is called the vulva and this area includes the labia (the inner and outer vaginal lips) and the clitoris. By far, some common symptoms include itching and pain. 

 

Often there is a change in the skin colour and texture. Most conditions affect only the vulva, but often vulvar diseases are a manifestation of a generalised medical condition like anaemia, diabetes, thyroid diseases, allergens, hay fever or asthma.

 

Skin diseases that affect other parts of the body can also appear at the vulva like eczema and psoriasis. The skin at the scalp, elbows, knees and around the anus are the common sites. Moisture, heat or rubbing can make things worse. Sometimes scented products, deodorants can cause an adverse reaction with the vulvar skin.

 

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Women can have an allergic reaction in their vulval skin, so it may be useful to note down any treatments such as creams and ointments that you have been using on your skin in that area. Chemicals in washing powders and bath or sanitary products are known to be sources of irritation. It is important that one does not ignore persistent symptoms at the vulva. 

 

Some common skin conditions that affect the vulva: 

 

Lichen Sclerosus: This usually affects older women, at or after menopause, possibly due to problems of the immune system. Contrary to common belief, it is not related to the use of hormonal contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

 

Lichen Planus: Can involve skin over all parts of the body even the mouth and is characterised by pain rather than itching. 

 

Vulvar dermatitis: This is a complex disorder related to stress as well as chemical irritants. Women with sensitive skin, dermatitis or eczema are more prone to it.

 

Vulvar atrophy: Causes the skin to be pale with itching or soreness. Usually occurs after menopause due to a fall in estrogen levels. 

 

Candida Infection: This is essentially a fungal infection that causes irritation and soreness of the vulva rather than the discharge that most women are aware of when it affects the vagina. Moisture and poor hygiene can be causative. Candida can be passed sexually to a partner.

 

Psoriasis: Causes dryness and thickening of the skin. Psoriasis can affect the skin over many parts of the body like the scalp, elbows, knees and also nails.

 

Treatment and remedies depend on the symptoms and the skin condition. Most respond to simple measures, such as avoiding irritants and using substitutes for soap while bathing. Often antihistamines or anti-itching drugs may help.

 

Supervised use of steroid ointments may be needed in the case of lichen sclerosus or lichen planus. This will improve symptoms for most women. However, these are called chronic conditions and tend to recur and need prolonged treatment.

 

Vulvar atrophy may need estrogen creams, whereas candida is treated with antifungal tablets and creams.

 

Tips for care of the vulva:

 

Vulval skin is very sensitive and therefore one needs to identify and avoid irritants that can aggravate the symptoms. 

 

Using soap substitutes for washing soothes as well as protects the skin and will stop the skin from becoming dry and irritated. Aqueous cream or moisturisers can be used instead of soap. It is helpful to add an emollient. Women with sensitive skin should avoid wearing panty liners or sanitary towels on a regular basis. Avoid coloured toilet paper. A large number of the commonly available shower gels, soaps, bubble baths and scrubs contain irritant chemicals and should be avoided. In fact, a few of the baby wipes and douches also may contain similar skin irritants. Women with long nails need to be careful while itching, to avoid injuring the sensitive vulvar skin.

 

Women with chronic vulvar conditions are advised to change their innerwear and wear loose-fitting cotton or silk underwear rather than synthetic, dyed underwear. Tight clothes such as leggings, jeans and cycling shorts may exacerbate the problems and are best avoided

 

Moisturising creams and ointments help protect the skin. It is advisable to use a moisturiser even when you do not have symptoms that can prevent flare-ups. 

 

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Vulvar diseases are often complicated and often involve a psychosomatic component. Treatment requires a team effort between a dermatologist, gynaecologist, gynecologic-oncologist and occasionally inputs from a psychological counsellor. It’s important that women do not ignore vulvar symptoms and talk to their doctor at the earliest.

 

About the author: Dr Samar Gupte is a Mumbai based leading Gynecologic Oncologist

Also Read: 4 Common myths about puberty that are anything but true

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