What Is A Vulva? Why Is It Important To Protect?

What Is A Vulva? Why Is It Important To Protect?

The outer parts of the female reproductive system is named the vulva. It includes the pubic mound, labia majora and minora, clitoris, urethra, and vagina opening.

A whopping 73% of women don't know what a vulva is. They usually refer to it as a 'vagina,' when the vagina is just one part of the vulva. A clear understanding of this term is that the vulva refers to the outside parts of the female genital area that you can see, external. The vagina is the muscular part of the female genital tract, which extends from the cervix to the vaginal opening, internal.

The female external genitalia is fascinating as it comprises both the urinary tract and reproductive structures. These structures are collectively known as the vulva.

Structure of Vulva

It appears to be covered or wrapped by skin folds. These skin folds are labia majora and labia minora, and both are part of the vulva.

How does it vary in females?

Female external genitalia varies greatly. These variations can be seen in color, shape, and size from female to female. Why isn't it the same in all women?

A variation is because of the amount of estrogen influenced during development. With more estrogen, these structures tend to be larger and thicker. Lack of estrogen hormone can cause the external genitalia to become small and thin.

Aging and lack of estrogen can cause variation, which decreases during menstruation. As a result, external genitalia decreases in size.

Functions of Vulva

As an organ dealing with reproduction and menstruation, the functionality of the vulva is of high importance.

• Protects the internal parts of the reproductive system

• Help in sexual arousal and stimulation

• Facilitate sexual activities

• Lubrication & Cushioning

• Release of urine

What is HPV?

Human Papillomaviruses (HPV) is one of the most common STI-causing groups of viruses, which causes several health conditions like genital warts and cancer. There is no cure for the virus itself. However, the diseases and symptoms related to it can be healed.

How is HPV spread?

It happens due to sexual contact (vaginal, oral, or anal) with someone with the virus. It spreads due to close skin-to-skin touching (genitals, mouth, and throat), which includes the vulva. A person with HPV can pass the disease to someone even when they don't have symptoms.

HPV causes cancer, genital diseases, herpes, AIDS, genital warts, and other diseases.

Vulvar Diseases

An abnormality or pathological condition which affects a single or all parts of the vulva is called vulvar disease. Many common vulvar infections include folliculitis, vulvodynia, and others.

Symptoms of Vulvar Disease

The vulva is a sensitive part dealing with the reproductive and sexual function of the female body. Most symptoms of the vulvar disease can be long-term and painful, such as:

• Itching

• Burning

• Dyspareunia

• Abnormal discharge

• Bleeding

Any abnormality affecting one or the overall part of the vulva is a disease. In case of experiencing any abnormality, consulting with a gynecologist suits this best. Such disorders can range from mild skin infection to cancer of the vulva. Treatment for diseases of the vulva can be either medication, home remedies, or surgery.

I. Vulvar Cancer

With vulvar cancer, the fleshy outer part of the female genitalia is affected. A red and itchy lump is formed around the vulva area. It is often diagnosed in older females. Mutation develops in DNA, and healthy cells are prone to death. Its symptoms may include consistent itching, pain, tenderness, bumps, and a change in skin color.

Causes and Treatment of Vulvar Cancer

• Exposure to HPV (sexually transmitted infection)

• Increasing age

• Compromised Immune System

• Smoking

• History of Cancerous condition

Treatment options could be a surgical procedure or radio and chemotherapies.

II. Genital Herpes

Herpes is a common STI caused by the herpes simplex virus. Its symptoms involve pain, itching, and sores on the vulvar and other parts. Some other symptoms of herpes are tiny blisters, ulceration, scabs, and crusts. Women with multiple sexual partners are more likely to develop genital herpes.

Cure of Herpes

There is no cure for genital herpes. However, prescription drugs can help with the sores. The medicines can lessen the severity of symptoms. Finding out that you have genital herpes can cause shame and anger. A visit to a gynecologist can help avoid such infections for health and a better future.

III. Bartholin Gland Cyst

These glands are located on the vagina opening. By secreting fluids, they aid in vaginal lubrication. When the opening is obstructed, the fluid returns to the glands, causing a cyst. Although the cyst is painless, it gets infected.

Symptoms of Bartholin cyst

Symptoms of Bartholin cyst have a painful lump at the opening of the vagina. A severe infection can occur within a few days.

• Discomfort while sitting or walking

• Tender and painful lump

• Pain during sexual activity

• Fever

Treatment

The treatment you get depends upon the size and extent of the cyst. Treatment can be done in many ways. If the cyst is highly infected, one may need minor surgery to drain it. Several drugs can help to clear the infection.

Also, Small size cysts can soak in a warm water bath. It may soften the area, causing it to burst and drain without surgery.

Why is the protection of Vulva Important?

The organ that helps out during sexual intercourse is the vulva. The male organ, the penis, makes its way through this opening. Sperm ejaculation in the vagina is achieved through the vulva. Menstruation takes place through this body part. The pee process or urination takes place here. Being the most sensitive and vital part, its protection is the most necessary for a female.

How HPV and other vulvar problems can be avoided?

HPV can cause cervical cancers. It may take years to develop cancerous cells. People with weak immune systems may be less able to fight off HPV. They develop a lot of other health problems. Still, there are ways to lower the chances of getting HPV.

• Get vaccinated. (Ask your doctor if the HPV vaccine is right for you).

• Get screened for cervical cancer.

• Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

• Use protection in the right way during sexual activity.

• Be in a mutually monogamous relationship and make sure that they have also gotten tested.

What should I do if I test positive?

Genital and sexually transmitted diseases are not meant to be taken lightly, as these are not primarily curable. If one has tested positive for any sexual disease, there are some things that one can do as a responsible human being.

• Get your check-up done.

• Take HIV or prescribed medicines daily.

• Do not get involved in sexual activities anymore.

• Don't use other people's things that are in direct skin-to-skin touch.

• Don't let others borrow your garments, shaving goods, or intimate toys.

Conclusion

Vulvar hygiene is essential for a woman's health. Whether she's a teenager or a woman, keeping the vulva clean and safe from any pathogens makes a huge difference. It prevents vaginal infections and vulvar diseases. Maintaining your pH is the most crucial part. Also, don't strictly focus on the vagina but also the outer surrounding. Washing with lukewarm water, wearing breathable clothes, safe sex, natural period products such as Wombilee, and avoiding chemicals all ensure a healthy vulva.