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What are vulvar disorders?

The vulva, which is composed of the labia, clitoris, outer vagina and outer urethra, is susceptible to a wide variety of conditions that can occur at any age. Most of these are skin conditions. They are typically classified as either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Our approach

If you are diagnosed with a malignant or precancerous vulvar disorder, a team of specialists at our Gynecologic Oncology Center will provide exceptional care that is tailored to your needs. As one of the largest and most comprehensive gynecologic oncology centers in the region, we offer the latest technology in the hands of industry-leading physicians.

Our general gynecologists, pelvic floor specialists and pediatric and adolescent gynecologists have extensive experience using proven approaches on women at every stage of their lives.

Symptoms

If you have a vulvar disorder, you may see and/or feel a number of symptoms including:

  • Discoloration
  • A growth, such as a wart or ulcer
  • Persistent itching or burning
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pain during urination or bowel movements

When to see a doctor

If you experience redness, itching, burning or lesions in the vulva area, you should tell your gynecologist. These symptoms can be caused by many different conditions, ranging from common infections to malignant cancer.

Causes

The causes of vulvar disorders vary depending on your condition. Bacterial infections and natural fungi can cause many benign vulvar disorders, while malignant vulvar disorders may be related to tobacco consumption or the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Risk factors

Common risk factors for vulvar disorders include:

  • Select hygiene products
  • Personal hygiene
  • Smoking
  • Hormonal imbalances related to pregnancy or age

Related conditions

There are a vast number of vulvar disorders, each with its own causes, symptoms and treatments. Some of the most common vulvar disorders include:

  • Yeast infections
  • Contact dermatitis (vulvitis)
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Vulvodynia
  • Vulvar dystrophy
  • Vulvar cancer
  • Vulvar dysplasia

How is it diagnosed?

Before ordering any tests, your gynecologist will ask about your symptoms and conduct a physical exam. This information may be enough for your doctor to make a diagnosis, though most cases require a biopsy or Pap smear.

Blood and urine tests may also be used to screen for common abnormalities. Depending on your medical history and sexual activity, a sexually transmitted disease test may also be used.

It is important to make an appointment with your gynecologist as soon as you begin to experience symptoms. With so many different kinds of vulvar disorders causing similar symptoms, it is common to self-diagnose and treat the wrong condition, making the real condition even worse.

Treatment options

Though there is a full spectrum of potential treatments, your physician may recommend one of the following common approaches:

  • Topical ointment
  • Antibiotics
  • Laser surgery
  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP)
  • Minimally invasive surgery
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