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HealthInfo Canterbury

Vulval problems

Vulva Your vulva is the area around the opening of your vagina. It includes the labia (inner and outer vaginal lips) and the clitoris.

Vulval symptoms are common in women of all ages. They include itching, burning, irritation, pain, or a change in the skin colour and texture of your vulva.

Causes of vulval problems

Bartholin's cysts and vulval lumps are common vulval problems.

Skin conditions such as dermatitis can cause itching with a rash. You can get dermatitis from irritants such as strongly perfumed soaps and lotions. Sometimes you might have a reaction to the type of condoms you use.

If you have a condition called lichen sclerosus the skin of your vulva can become thin and wrinkled, which can result in itching, tenderness and painful sex. Psoriasis can also affect the vulva and cause dryness and thickening of the skin.

You might have a vulval infection such as thrush, which is a common infection that causes itchiness and soreness.

Sexually transmitted infections such as genital warts and genital herpes can cause vulval symptoms.

Vulvodynia refers to pain that is ongoing in the vulva and the skin surrounding the entrance to the vagina.

If your levels of the female hormone estrogen are lower, such as when you've finished the menopause, you could have vulval atrophy. It makes the vulval skin become thinner and drier, and the skin gets pale and itchy.

Very rarely, vulval problems can be a sign of vulval cancer.

Getting help with vulval problems

You should see your GP if:

Vulval problems can be distressing. Don't feel embarrassed to see a doctor.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2021.

Sources

Page reference: 279439

Review key: HIVIP-32204