Oestrogen is the main female sex hormone and the plummeting levels during the menopause transition will produce many changes to your body. Did you know that it can affect both the vagina and the external female genitals (vulva)? During perimenopause the tissues of the vulva and the lining of the vagina can become thinner, drier, and less elastic or flexible. So here is what you need to look out for?
The vulva – what’s normal?
Vulva is the general name given to all the external parts of the female genitals. Each woman’s vulva is unique in size and appearance, with no two looking the same. It is normal for there to be noticeable differences between the left and right side of the vulva, especially the labia minora (the inner lips). Images seen online are often heavily edited, making the vulva look symmetrical and childlike.
Because it is difficult for women to see their own vulva, many women do not know what it looks like. If you don’t know what your vulva looks like, use a mirror to have a look. Once you are familiar with what your vulva looks like, it will be easier to detect any changes in the skin, such as colour or texture.
What is vulval irritation?
Any itching, burning or discomfort of the vulva can be described as vulval irritation. The skin of the vulva is extremely delicate, making it susceptible to a wide range of conditions.
Vulval irritation is relatively common in women of all ages, with skin conditions and infections often being the cause. A small part of the vulva or sometimes the entire vulva can be affected.
Signs and symptoms include:
- redness and/or swelling
- burning and/or itching
- skin cracking or splitting (also known as fissuring)
- whitening of skin
- associated vaginal inflammation and/or discharge
What to do if you have vulval irritation?
If you are experiencing vulval irritation, it is important to see your doctor so they can work out what is causing your symptoms. Don’t attempt to diagnose or treat the problem yourself. There are many causes of vulval irritation, so finding an effective treatment depends on knowing the cause.
If your symptoms don’t clear up with treatment, or if they keep coming back, make sure you go back to your doctor. During your appointment, your doctor should examine your vulva; it can be hard to diagnose vulval conditions without actually seeing what’s going on. If your doctor does not check your vulva, it is appropriate to ask for an examination.
Most cases of vulval irritation improve with treatment, but there are a few rare conditions that can become serious if left untreated. So if you are experiencing vulval symptoms, visit your doctor to find out what’s really going on, and start taking care of ‘down there’.
So ladies, we now need to talk…
Be honest, are you embarrassed at the thought of going to your doctor to discuss problems with you vajayjay? How have you started the conversation with your doctor?
With love and gratitude
Published with the permission of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health