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Painful Sex? It Could Be Vulvar Disease

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Painful Sex? It Could Be Vulvar Disease

For 20 million women, painful sex is having a major impact on their lives. It’s not only painful, it affects the quality of their relationships and it keeps on causing a problem until it’s treated. That’s why I want to share this information with you about a group of painful conditions that cause irritation of the skin around the vagina – the area called the vulva. These conditions are known as vulvar dermatosis. Vulvar skin is usually protected and a little different than skin on more exposed areas of the body. It’s susceptible to some of the same skin conditions as the rest of the skin, and a few that typically only occur “down there.”

Most women, and a lot of doctors, are not familiar with vulvar dermatosis. They don’t realize how common these problems are and, as a result, feel isolated and embarrassed. They may fear they have a sexually transmitted disease or other problems and stop having sex. All of this can lead to depression and frustration. It’s not helped by the fact that vulvar skin problems are in that gray area between what gynecologists and what dermatologists typically treat. So it’s important to find a doctor familiar with the problem.

Here are some of the common vulvar symptoms that you should be aware of:

  • Itchy
  • Redness
  • Swollen
  • Painful

It’s not about relaxing, it’s not normal, and it’s something that usually can be improved with treatment.

Your doctor may ask you questions about:

  • Your sexual practices
  • Any history of sexually transmitted diseases
  • Whether or not you use over-the-counter medications on the vulva
  • If you’ve had surgery on your labia (the lips around the vagina)
  • Trauma to your vulva
  • Your exercise history
  • How you care for your vulva

He or she will examine the vulvar skin carefully and look for areas of discoloration, paleness, redness, ulcers and other skin changes. The doctor might offer you a mirror to look at your vulva during the exam. They may also touch the skin with a cotton swab to see it there are any particularly tender spots.

They will also use a speculum to look inside the vagina for any abnormalities or discharge and check the pH, a measure of the level of acidity. The doctor may also do a more general exam including looking at the rest of your skin, and your eyes and mouth because some vulvar conditions are associated with more general health conditions.

Here are the most common causes of vulvar dermatosis:

Contact Dermatitis

Some products and substances used on the vulvar skin can be irritating to those tissues and cause inflammation. Here is a list to be aware of:

Things that can cause vulvar irritation:

  • Soaps and detergents
  • Sweat
  • Urine
  • Feces
  • Douches
  • Spermicide
  • Panty liners and menstrual pads

Things that can cause an allergic response on the vulvar tissues:

  • Benzocaine (Vagisil)
  • Neomycin (Neosporin)
  • Chlorhexidine (KY)
  • Perfume
  • Lanolin
  • Nail polish
  • Latex condoms
  • Nickel from piercings
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Dr. Mache Seibel

Women's health expert and guest speaker Dr. Mache Seibel addresses consumers' critical needs from weight control to HRTmenopause and beyond. He served on the Harvard Medical School faculty for 19 years and is founder of My Menopause Magazine on the Apple Newsstand ( Download the Free App and first Free issue. He works with companies and organizations to bring exciting educational content to consumers. Visit his award-winning website to sign up for his free monthly newsletter.


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7:08AM PST on Mar 9, 2013

Thanks .

6:08AM PST on Jan 28, 2013


6:06AM PST on Jan 28, 2013


10:19AM PDT on Oct 20, 2012

Well, this doesn't cover my problem, but good info for younger women.

1:45PM PDT on Jul 30, 2012


3:49AM PDT on Jul 11, 2012

Make bone strong with ....

7:34AM PDT on Jul 10, 2012


6:16AM PDT on Jul 6, 2012

thank you posting a great article,

1:18PM PDT on Jun 22, 2012


1:32PM PDT on May 29, 2012


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