Embarrassing Body Conditions Part 3 - Female Genital Skin Conditions

Dr Helena Torpinski|Genital lesions
24 October 2019


We’re continuing our series of embarrassing body conditions by taking a look at female genital skin conditions.

Read Part 1 (Warts, Folliculitis and Skin Tags) here and Part 2 (Male Genital Conditions) here.

Specifically (yes, unfortunately there are more embarrassing female genital skin conditions than we can fit in one blog) we’re talking about lichen sclerosis, genital dermatitis and vaginal infections.

Lichen Sclerosis

Lichen sclerosis is an important condition for women to be aware of. It can occur in women of all ages, though it is most common in women over 50’s.

Lichen Sclerosis is a skin condition and is not infectious. The main symptom is that vulval skin becomes thin, wrinkled and it splits and fissures easily. If left untreated it can lead to scarring and permanent deformity of the genitals.

It can also cause sex to be painful.

Lichen Sclerosis is associated with some autoimmune disorders, such as vitiligo and thyroid disease and can also be associated with vulval skin cancer.

Lichen sclerosis is managed more than treated, which means it must be medically monitored for changes with a dermatologist or gynaecologist. Steroid creams are used to treat symptoms.

Genital Dermatitis

Dermatitis can occur anywhere on the skin, including genitals. It causes itching and possibly a rash.

Caused by dry skin, which itself can be brought on by overzealous washing with soaps, as these can cause dryness. Other causes include the overuse of sanitary pads/panty liners, reactions to latex and the use of feminine hygiene products, especially when they are perfumed.

The primary treatment for genital dermatitis is to cease using the products that are causing the reaction. Instead, use a gentle, non-soap alternative, only use sanitary pads when truly needed and don’t use panty liners routinely. A dermatologist may also prescribe antihistamines and/or steroid creams to help contain the affected area and clear up rash.

Vaginal Infections

Vaginal infections occur when bacteria, fungi and other organisms overgrow. Some of these organisms are acquired and some already live in the vagina and are normally kept at healthy levels by co-existing with other microorganisms.

Infections are less likely to become problematic if you are of normal weight, don’t interfere with the normal environment of your genitals with soaps or excessive washing and don’t enclose yourself in tight or synthetic garments. The vulva has its own natural cleaning mechanism in the form of normal vaginal secretions. Also, if you are diabetic, managing your diabetes well will also help keep your vaginal environment healthy.

Symptoms of Vaginal Infections
There are numerous symptoms of vaginal infections. These include:

  • itching
  • unusual smell
  • excess discharge
  • stinging while urinating
  • spot bleeding
  • pain in pelvic area
  • pain during sex

If you experience any of these symptoms, or any other unusual symptoms, it’s best to see your doctor.

Investigations with your GP may involve swabs to check for candida/herpes simplex virus or bacterial vaginosis. It’s important to remember that some of these conditions can co-exist with other diagnoses or they may appear as red herrings. Sometimes persistent symptoms will require a biopsy.

Treatment will then depend on what your GP finds in diagnostic tests.

Concerned you may have a female genital skin condition?

If you’re experiencing any symptoms that you think may be a genital skin condition, or other symptoms that are worrying you, we strongly suggest you see your GP. You may then be referred to a dermatologist.  To make an appointment with our dermatologist, call our receptionists.