Vulvar disorders aren’t talked about much but certain health problems do affect the vulva. Some are minor. Others are more serious.
The vulva is the outside portion of the female genital area. Its skin can be quite sensitive. It’s easily injured because it’s moist and subjected to a lot of friction.
There are several types of vulvar disorders. These include:
Yeast infections. These are the most common type of vulvar infections. Symptoms include redness, itching, a whitish, clumpy discharge and burning during urination.
Contact dermatitis. This is when the vulvar skin is irritated. The culprit isn’t always known. It may be perfumed toilet paper, bathing suits or underwear, detergents, hygiene sprays, spermicide, or diaphragms or condoms. The main symptoms are redness and itching.
Vulvar dystrophy. This is the growth of abnormal skin on the vulva. There are four types:
First, squamous cell hyperplasia is a slightly elevated, irregular gray or white patch of skin on the vulva. It may appear as a pink or red vulva. It’s often chronic and may require long-term treatment.
Second, lichen simplex chronicus is a thick white area typically on only one side of the vulva.
Third, lichen sclerosis can cause small, white patches that are thin and look crinkled. It happens primarily during puberty and menopause, but it can occur at any age. Itching is the primary symptom.
And fourth, lichen planus is a skin condition characterized by itchy bumps on the shins, wrist and hands. One type involves both the vagina and vulva. Severe cases cause painful red areas or sores.
Vulvodynia is another vulvar disorder. It simply means vulvar pain. The descriptions of pain vary. Some women experience it in only one area, while others have it in multiple areas. Symptoms consist of burning, stinging, irritation or rawness.
Sexually transmitted diseases. STDs can affect the vulva. The most common are genital warts and genital herpes.
Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia. This is a type of precancerous vulvar tissue abnormality. It can progress to invasive cancer of the vulva. Vulvar cancers most often occur in white women 60 and older.