Disorders of the Vulva
What is the Vulva?
"Vulva" is the name given to the external parts of the female genitalia. It is predominantly made from skin and as a result there are a wide range of conditions that may affect your vulva. These conditions usually present with itching, discharge or a rash. It is normal to have some discharge from the vagina because this is how your body removes bacteria and skin cells however if you are experiencing discomfort, it is important to see your doctor.
Some of the symptoms that might be causing your discomfort include:
- Pain - with intercourse, light touching or without any stimulation at tall.
- Lumps, Ulcerations, Blisters or breaks in the skin
- Discoloration - redness or whitening of the skin
- Increased discharge
There are many causes of vulval irritation. They may include:
- Vaginal secretions, Urinary or fecal incontinence
- Skin conditions such as: dermatitis, eczema, lichen sclerosus (skin is often pale or whitish)
- Infection scaused by fungal, bacterial or viral organisms such as: candidiasis (thrush), trichomonas, genital herpes
- Firm fitting clothing, pantyhose or G-strings
- Allergies to some substances such as: soaps, bath and hair products, synthetic underwear,
feminine hygiene products, perfumes, laundry detergents, scented or coloured toilet paper
- Condoms, particularly latex based
- Lubricants used for intercourse
- Wax or hair removal products
- Douching (vaginal irrigation – this is never advised because of the irritation and drastic alteration of the normal bacteria within the vagina)
What is Normal?
Every woman's vulva is unique and differs in size, length, depth and general appearance. Sometimes the left and right sides may be slightly different and the shape of the labia and clitoris will vary from person to person. Often, women are unaware of the appearance of their own vulva and the use of a mirror may help you become more familiar with your normal appearance. This can be beneficial in identifying a lesion that is new or causing discomfort.
As a woman it can be difficult to get an idea of the significant variations in vulval appearance that occur from woman to woman, including different ethnicities, body shape, weight and build. Due to censorship laws and model selection bias the general impression of a normal vulva on the internet and in media is not a true representation of the normal female anatomy. If you would like to get an idea of the true normal anatomical variation of the vulva we recommend visiting The Labia Library
Patient Information Sheets
These information sheets are intended to be used as a guide for information of general nature, having regard to general circumstances only. The companies which create them offer them freely available for use in clinical practice and If you are looking for more detailed information we encourage you to visit their websites.
Each sheet reflects information available at the time of its preparation, but its currency should be determined having regard to other available information. the companies responsible for the production of this information disclaims all liability to users of the information provided.