Vulva Dermatology: Common Vulvar Conditions
When women experience itching and discomfort in the vaginal area, they may assume that they have a typical yeast infection.
However, issues affecting the vulva are far more expansive and can include skin complaints, infections, pain, and cancer.
Before searching symptoms online and self-diagnosing, patients should be aware of vulva anatomy, different vulvar conditions, and how a specialist can help diagnose and treat these concerns.
Anatomy of the Vulva
The vulva is the external portion of the female genitals and surrounds the vagina. It’s comprised of a fatty pad covered in hair called the mons pubis, outer lips called the labia majora, and inner lips called the labia minora.
In addition, the vulva contains the clitoris which is a bundle of nerve endings and the urethral opening which allows the passage of urine.
The vestibule is the area around the opening of the vagina and urethra, and the perineum is the area between the vagina and anus.
Vulvar Conditions of the Skin
Vulvar conditions that affect the skin include: Dermatitis, psoriasis, lichen sclerosus, lichen planus, and ulceration of the vulva.
Dermatitis is an inflammation of the vulvar skin that may cause itching and a rash. Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition characterized by overproduction and rapid growth of skin cells. It may appear as a few flakes in some individuals or as large, scaly patches in others.
Lichen sclerosus presents as white patches and thinning skin on the vulva and can result in itching and discomfort with sex.
Symptoms of lichen planus include pain, bleeding, a burning sensation, and painful sex. Both lichen sclerosus and lichen planus can increase a woman’s risk of vulvar cancer.
Lastly, ulceration of the vulva can be caused by skin conditions, infections, inflammation, and rarely cancer.
Diagnosis of Vulvar Conditions
Patients experiencing any of these symptoms should see their dermatologist for evaluation.
He or she will ask for a complete medical history, including a description of past and current issues, conduct a physical exam, and perform any necessary cultures or biopsies.
Treatment of Vulvar Conditions
Treatment of vulvar conditions often depends on the cause of symptoms. Many of these issues respond well to topical corticosteroids, antihistamines, gentle cleansing, and avoidance of irritants and triggers.
To learn more about vulvar conditions in Northern Virginia, please call Tyson’s Gynecology today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Melinda Hall.