LADIES: WHY KNOWING OURSELVES IS SO IMPORTANT

Woman looking at her vulva using a mirror

The only perfect vulva is yours, and it needs regular check-ups.

We believe that the only imperfect vulva is the one that’s ignored, censored and unloved.

Unlike for boys, it’s not easy for girls and women to get to intimately know their vulva and vagina, because it’s so difficult to see it properly.

As a result, that part of our body can almost be like a room in the house that we never visit.

That’s why mirrors come handy, and there’s no shame to be had!

The more we know and love ourselves, the better we can care for ourselves.

That doesn’t mean we don’t need to get our cervical screening regularly – as the symptoms would be hard to detect ourselves.

But getting familiar with this essential part of our bodies means being more at home with ourselves.

How to Properly Care for Your Vulva


What is vulvar care? The goal of vulvar care is to keep the vulva dry and free from irritants. In this way, you can prevent the vulva from becoming red, swollen and irritated. Because many infections are introduced into the vagina, these tips also provide a basis for good, vaginal care.

Below are some tips for vulvar care
  • Use warm water to wash the vulva. Dry thoroughly with a clean towel. (If the vulva is very irritating, you can try drying it with a blow dryer set on cool.)
  • The vagina cleanses itself naturally in the form of normal, vaginal discharge. Avoid using douches unless prescribed by your physician. These products can upset the natural balance of organisms.
  • Wear only white, 100 percent cotton underwear. Avoid wearing nylon, acetate, or other manmade fibers if you have delicate skin or are prone to vulvar irritation.
  • Avoid wearing thongs.
  • Rinse underclothes carefully after washing or double-rinse. Avoid using too much laundry detergent.
  • Wash new underclothes before wearing.
  • Use a mild soap (such as Woolite®) for washing underclothes. Avoid fabric softeners (including dryer sheets) and detergents with enzymes (amylase, lipase, protease, and cellulose).
  • Use soft toilet tissue (white only).
  • Use tampons instead of sanitary napkins to control menstrual bleeding. (Do not use deodorant tampons.) Do not leave tampons in for a long period, due to toxic shock syndrome. Do not leave tampons in all night.
  • Take sitz baths daily, if prescribed by your healthcare provider.
  • Don't scratch.
  • Avoid wearing nylon pantyhose or panty girdles. They trap heat and moisture, providing an ideal breeding environment for organisms. When nylons or leggings are required, wear cotton or nylons with a cotton panty.
  • Avoid these feminine hygiene products, which can irritate the vulva: sanitary pads, feminine spray, and deodorants, scented oils, bubble baths, bath oils, talc or powder.

The Most Common Concerns About The Vulva


Vulvar concerns that should lead to medical evaluation include the following symptoms:
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Pain
  • Associated vaginal discharge
  • Lumps
  • Bumps
  • Ulcerations
  • Pigment changes
  • Pustules
  • Odors
  • Rashes
There can frequently be a combination of several of these symptoms. Occasionally, women try to diagnose these symptoms themselves and the most common culprit is “yeast.” Self-treatment can sometimes be successful, but it can also make the problem worse or even prolong the diagnosis of a more serious health concern.

Itching is a common vulvar complaint. There are many causes of itching. Sometimes it is a “yeast” infection. But many times, it is not.

An Itchy Vulva


Infections in the Vulva


Infections that can cause itching include:
  • Herpes
  • Vulvar Condyloma (Warts)
Itching can also occur from the discharge that occurs with other infections such as:
Bacterial vaginosis
  • Trichomonas
  • Non-Infections in the Vulva

Desquamative inflammatory vaginitis


A noninfectious cause of itching, pain and profuse vaginal discharge.

Skin dermatitis


Itching can occur from a skin dermatitis which can be caused either by an individual’s sensitivity (or allergy) to a substance or from the substance itself causing an actual irritation of the skin. Even products that have been used for years can cause sensitivity.

Atrophic vaginitis


The skin of the vulva also changes with age, hormones and environmental concerns like heat and occlusion that can occur from wearing tight clothes or non-breathable fabrics like nylon.

Atrophic vaginitis is common in the menopausal years and the itching is caused by decreased hormone levels. This can make the skin even more vulnerable.

Substances To Avoid Using On the Vulva


Substances that can irritate the vulva include:
  • creams
  • gels
  • wipes
  • feminine products
  • spermicides
  • deodorant soaps
When the vulvar skin gets too dry it will cause itching and burning. Excessive washing can dry out or injure the skin. Very little soap should be used on the vulva, and it should be applied with fingertips, not a washcloth, which is too abrasive to this sensitive skin. A mild soap such as Cetaphil can be used heavily diluted with water and the skin should always be gently patted dry.

Vulvar Skin Diseases


Lichen simplex chronicus


Lichen simplex chronicus is a skin disease that can cause itching and is similar to eczema.

Chronic Vulvar Skin Diseases


Lichen sclerosis, lichen planus and psoriasis are chronic vulvar skin diseases that can cause severe itching along with other skin changes. Chronic vulvar skin diseases cannot be cured but can be treated to reduce or eliminate symptoms.

Vulvar itching can occur even when there are no specific findings on an examination. This itching can be accompanied by the following symptoms:
  • burning
  • rawness
  • painful intercourse
  • irritation

Vulvodynia


An extreme sensitivity to touch, especially around the opening to the vagina is called vulvodynia. It can be a very frustrating condition to have, but treatments are available that can be very helpful.

Diagnosing a Vulvar Disorder


Bumps, lumps, skin cracks, ulcerations, pustules, peeling skin and skin color changes have both infectious and noninfectious causes. These can be both painful and non-painful. The symptoms may involve the entire vulva or only one small area.

Some infectious causes of the symptoms listed above include:
  • Herpes
  • Warts
  • Molluscum contagiousum
  • Yeast
  • Staph
  • Strep infections

Some of the noninfectious causes of these symptoms include:
  • Cysts
  • Varicose veins
  • Blood vessels nodules
  • Moles
  • Skin cancers

The diagnosis of a vulvar disorder involves a visit to your doctor so a physical exam can be performed. It's also important to share your history of symptoms and the duration of time they have been present.

Along with the exam, your doctor may obtain tests that can include cultures and sometimes skin biopsy. After obtaining results, a treatment plan will be determined depending on the cause of the vulvar disorder. There are many causes for vulvar concerns and it is important to have a thorough medical evaluation so the correct treatment can be implemented.

You do not have to suffer in silence, help is available!

Be Strong. Be Healthy. Be in Charge! 

Viva la vulva.
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