Genital irritation in females is any condition that causes discomfort in the female genitalia. The hymen or outer lips of the vagina and labia, the clitoris, and the vulva are parts of the external female genitalia. The internal female genitalia include the vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
The female external genitalia have a rich blood supply. As a result, even minor conditions can cause irritation to the area. Irritation to the female genitalia can range from mild itching or discomfort to severe, intense pain. It may occur suddenly or last a long time.
When a female complains of irritation in the genitalia, the healthcare professional will ask questions, including: when the irritation startedwhether the irritation is constantif anything decreases the irritation or makes it worse if there are any other symptoms, such as fever, vomiting, bloating, headache, itching, back pain, or flank pain if there is any discharge or bleeding from the vagina and, if so, what color and consistency it isif there is any change in the menstrual cycle, if periods are regular, if there is any chance of pregnancy, or if she has gone through menopause what medications, drugs, or herbs she takes, if any whether she has started using or changed the use of any products that might cause genital irritation such as soaps, creams, laundry detergents, new clothing, perfumes, douches, bubble bath or hygienic products.what other medical problems she has, if any
There are many causes of genital irritation, including: chemical irritation to the lining of the genitals, such as from soaps, bubble bath, or laundry detergentinfection, such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, herpes (HSV), or human papilloma virus (HPV) other infections, including vaginal yeast infections, urinary tract infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, and cervical infectionsinflammation of the genitals, such as cervicitis or vaginitisconditions causing increased vaginal discharge, such as erosion, which is an ulceration of the cervical liningtrauma, especially to the cervix, which may be caused by intercourse, tampon insertion, or speculum insertion during a pelvic exam tumors, growths, or cancer certain medications, including hormones, antibiotics, antihistamineshormone changes or imbalancesautoimmune disorders, which are conditions in which a person's immune system attacks his or her own body for no apparent reason tight-fitting clothinginadequate lubrication prior to intercoursetraumatic sexual experiences, including rape previous surgery, including D&C or hysterectomy
Protecting the genitalia from such conditions as trauma, irritating soaps, and exposure to STIs, may decrease the risk of irritation. Wearing properly fitted clothing and cotton-lined underwear may also help. A woman should seek early care for possible infections.
Many causes can not be prevented.
A thorough medical history and physical exam will be performed as the first step in diagnosing the cause of the genital irritation. The healthcare professional may order tests such as: a pelvic exam and Pap smear blood tests an examination of the vagina and cervix called a colposcopy x-rays and scans, such as ultrasound of the pelvic organs cultures of any dischargebiopsy
Genital irritation caused from sensitivity to bubble bath may heal without any long-term effects. Genital irritation from infection such as vulvovaginal candidiasis (yeast infection) may require extended use of antifungal agents or long-term suppressive therapy with agents such as boric acid suppositories. A person with a history of chronic irritation may need a low dose corticosteroid ointment for a long time. Some injuries or infections may lead to permanent damage or pain, and may cause infertility.
Genital irritation itself is not contagious and poses no risk to others. But, if the cause is an infection such as an STI, the infection may be contagious.
When an injury occurs, an ice pack may be applied to reduce pain and swelling. A warm sitz bath may be soothing. Ointments or special foam may be prescribed to relieve pain, itching, and to treat infection. Antibiotics may also be prescribed for infections.
Those with cancer may need surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. Surgery may be needed for those who have damage to their genitalia.
Antibiotics may cause stomach upset, diarrhea, or an allergic reaction, or may predispose to yeast infections. Surgery can be complicated by bleeding, infection, or an allergic reaction to the anesthetic.
A woman may not need further treatment for minor irritation. If she was treated for an STI, sexual partners should be notified.
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.
Understanding Your Body, Felicia Stewart, Felicia Guest, Gary Stewart, and Robert Hatcher, 1987
Maternity and Gynecological Care, The Nurse and the Family, Irene Bobak, Margaret Jensen, Marianne Zalar, Mosby Co., 1989
Professional Guide to Signs and Symptoms, Sringhouse, 1997