What is the vulva?
The vulval skin is the same as the skin that covers other parts of your body. As such, you can experience common skin problems found elsewhere, like eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis, in this area and sometimes this will be the only place affected.
Vulval skin problems
In addition to the common skin problems, which affect other areas of the body, there are a small number of skin conditions that tend to affect the vulval skin in particular. These are often termed Vulval Dystrophies and the commonest types are Lichen Sclerosus and Lichen Planus.
Many women with vulval skin symptoms will have had symptoms for a long time, often years. Embarrassment or fear about the cause of the problem often leads to delay in seeking advice and self-treatment without success before finally seeking a specialist opinion.
Click here to read about the treatment(s) involved in treating Vulval Problems. If you would like more information or wish to make an appointment regarding vulval problems, please get in contact .
Symptoms of vulval problems
Soreness is the symptom most commonly described, but vulval skin problems can cause other symptoms including discomfort during sex (dyspareunia), pain and bleeding.
Sometimes there will be no symptoms at all, but you may notice a change in the appearance of the skin, which may be in one small area or more generalised over the vulva. Whatever the case, it is a good idea to get it checked by your GP or to see a gynaecologist to get an expert opinion.
Treating vulval skin problems
Diagnosing the cause
In the majority of cases, a diagnosis is very easily made at the first clinic visit. Often a simple examination is all that is required to make a diagnosis and plan treatment. Sometimes a small skin biopsy can be very useful in establishing a precise diagnosis. When this is necessary it can usually be done easily at the same visit. The procedure involves a small injection of local anaesthetic, removal of a tiny piece of skin (about the size of a rice grain) and one very fine stitch that dissolves itself over two weeks.
If preferred, arrangements can of course be made to take any biopsy on another occasion with general anaesthetic.
Treating the problem
Once a diagnosis is made, effective treatment can be started and there is often rapid improvement in symptoms. Treatment is almost always medical with skin creams or ointments and it is most unusual for surgery to be required.
For some women, longer term hospital follow up visits are recommended, perhaps two or three times a year. This is because, although very uncommon, some vulval skin conditions have a small risk of malignant change. Many women are already aware of this risk and are understandably anxious, but are not fully informed of the whole picture. One of the biggest advantages of specialist advice is a careful explanation of the real risk, overall and in relation to a patient’s individual circumstances. In reality, the risk is almost always very small.