Trouble in your girl parts

Dr Helena Torpinski|Genital lesions
19 September 2019

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When you’re experiencing something not right in your girl parts, things are irksome. Female genital irritation can take many forms and we recommend seeing your GP or gynaecologist if you think it could be something serious.

But because your girl parts are covered with skin, a dermatologist may be your best option. Like all skin, genital skin can be troubled by dermatitis, skin infections and other conditions that dermatologists treat.

So here’s our quick guide to trouble in your girl parts.

Female Genital Irritation – Symptoms

Symptoms of trouble in your girl parts can be very varied.

Commonly you can experience generalised or localised pain, stabbing, stinging, itching, burning or rawness.

Symptoms can be intermittent or constant, they can worsen at certainly times of your menstrual cycle (usually before or after your period), can be set off by circumstances such as warm temperatures, regular swimming, sexual activity or the use of sanitary or other products.

Common causes of female genital irritation

Many issues experienced in your girl parts will be reactions to irritants in the products you use.

The most common trouble makers are:

Sanitary products.
Sanitary products are designed to absorb moisture but this means they do a good job of drying out your girl parts. But the mucous membranes in the skin need to be moist. Just like the inside of your mouth.

Sanitary products may also contain chemicals which can cause irritation in some people.

Only use sanitary products as long as you have to. Avoid panty liners between periods.

Hygiene products
Products such as soaps, washes, bubble bath, deodorants, perfumes and gels can all cause problems for your girl parts.

Soaps disturbs the pH balance of your genitals. Soap is alkaline while your mucous membranes need to be acidic.

Most soaps are also too caustic for your genitals. A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t use it round your genitals.

Don’t douche, as it washes away all your beautiful custom made secretions which are protective of your genitals. Douching replaces them with something which is, at best, second rate.

Lotions and Creams
Most body lotions and creams contain preservatives to keep them usable over time. They can also contain antibacterials, tea tree oil and spermicides. All of these can cause issues for your girl parts.

Body Fluids
Sweat, vaginal secretions, urine, semen and faecal matter can all cause irritation for your genital area.

What you can do to avoid or help irritation

Choose your clothing well.
Avoid synthetic fabrics in your underwear and avoid occlusive clothing, g-strings and pantyhose. Wear loose cotton clothing and sleep with your undies off.

Don’t keep a wet swimming costume on, and don’t cover yourself too much when you sleep at night so you can avoid getting hot and sweaty when you sleep.

Wash regularly but not more than once a day.

Have short, tepid showers and wash with just water. Use a soap substitute that is genital-safe (check with your GP).  Don’t scrub or clean vigorously.

Pat yourself dry, no harsh rubbing, using a soft towel. Avoid talcum powder and, again, no douching.

Using the loo
Choose toilet paper that is unbleached and unperfumed, as those chemicals can be irritating.

Have a pump pack of sorbolene cream in the loo – squirt some onto toilet paper before wiping, to avoid over-drying the skin.

Wipe from front to back, as this avoids spreading faecal matter into the vaginal area.

Scratching
Don’t scratch. Keep some sorbolene cream in the fridge. When skin gets itchy or irritated, use the sorbolene as a cold compress.

Incontinence or discharge solutions
Use a barrier cream such as vaseline, zinc or caster oil if you have incontinence or profuse vaginal discharge.

Optimise continence by doing pelvic floor muscle exercises (ask your GP for details).

Lubricant
If you need to use a lubricant during intimate activity, choose an unscented and unflavoured option, as the chemicals in scent and flavour can cause irritation.

Weight 
If you’re overweight, you may be at higher risk of girl part irritation, so losing weight can be helpful.

The Long Term View

Most dermatological conditions are chronic and need ongoing maintenance therapy, such as the things we’ve listed above.

This may mean abandoning the use of cherished but damaging personal hygiene routines. Your health is more important than that soap or spray or pair of undies – so make the right choice for your body.

Most women presenting with vulval symptoms will be suffering from a dermatological complaint, so the doctor is likely to examine the rest of your skin, including nails, scalp and mouth.

Vulval conditions respond slowly to treatment, usually weeks or months. They also may require referral to specialists or other health professionals. We know talking about these issues, and the examinations that go with them, can be uncomfortable or embarrassing. But girl parts are important, so take a deep breath, put your big girl pants on, and do the right things for your health.

Concerned about your symptoms?

If you’re experiencing symptoms which are causing you concern or not responding to treatment activity you’ve tried, we strongly suggest you see your GP, gynaecologist or dermatologist.  To make an appointment with our dermatologist, call our receptionists..