Vulvoscopy and Treatment of Chronic Vaginitis
A vulvoscopy is a quick, painless, and noninvasive microscopic examination of the vulva.
What Is the Vulva?
The vulva is the area around the outside of the vagina. It includes the labia (vaginal lips), opening to the vagina, and the clitoris. The vulva plays a very important role in a woman’s reproductive health. It is the gateway for sex and reproduction, offering protection to the vagina and the reproductive organs that lay beyond the vaginal canal, such as the womb (uterus), fallopian tubes, and ovaries – as well as to a developing fetus. The vulva also protects the urethra, which transports urine from the bladder out of the body. Finally, the vulva helps facilitate sex by responding to sexual arousal in numerous ways, including by helping to produce the lubrication needed for intercourse.
Why Your Doctor May Recommend a Vulvoscopy
Your healthcare provider may recommend a vulvoscopy if you have any of the following signs or symptoms in the area of the vulva:
- Inflammation (vaginitis)
- Lesions, sores, or rash
- Redness or change in color or texture
- Soreness or a burning sensation
- Irregular vaginal discharge or bleeding
- Pain with urination or sex
Your doctor may use a vulvoscopy to look for abnormal cells that may indicate cancer, an abscess, infection, or other disorders. Patients with chronic vaginitis or other symptoms, or persistent vaginal infections, may also be ideal candidates for a vulvoscopy exam.
What to Expect During a Vulvoscopy
This in-office diagnostic procedure is brief, with the entire examination taking 10 minutes or less.
Your Women’s HealthFirst provider will use a lighted magnifying device called a colposcope. This is the same specialized equipment used to perform a colposcopy after abnormal Pap smear results. During a vulvoscopy, however, the instrument does not touch you or enter the vagina.
The colposcope allows your doctor a well-lit, microscopic view of the folds of skin around your vagina. If any abnormalities are seen during the exam, a small biopsy may be taken for lab analysis. Local anesthetic is applied prior to a biopsy, so you should not feel any pain.
Conditions That Can Affect the Vulva
In order to properly treat a condition, it is important to first make an accurate diagnosis. That is why your OB-GYN specialist may recommend a vulvoscopy, especially when your symptoms are chronic, persistent, or severe.
A comprehensive medical evaluation may include a physical exam, review of medical history and symptoms, as well as appropriate office-based tests, such as blood tests, cultures, and a vulvoscopy or colposcopy.
The following conditions may result in signs or symptoms affecting the vulva or vagina – or both.
This skin condition typically affects the exterior genital and anus areas, causing itchy white patches of skin to appear. Scratching the area can lead to a bacterial skin infection. Lichen sclerosis is believed to have a genetic component. Post-menopausal women are at the highest risk of developing this skin disorder. Steroids are a common treatment, and antibiotics may be called for if an infection develops.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) may cause lesions to develop on the vulva. The STIs that can cause rashes, sores, or warts to appear in the genital region include:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Genital herpes (herpes simplex 1 & 2)
Many other STIs can cause vaginal discharge, itchiness, and pain. One of the most common is trichomoniasis or “trich.” Treatment will depend on the type of STI causing your symptoms.
Bacteria that get inside the urethra – which is protected by the vulva – may cause a urinary tract infection that can travel up into the bladder and kidneys. A common symptom of a UTI is pain with urination and pelvic pain. Antibiotics are the standard treatment for UTIs.
Vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina. It typically occurs as the result of a vaginal infection, the most common of which are bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and trichomoniasis (a type of STI). Vaginitis typically occurs alongside vaginal discharge, itchiness, and pain. Treatment will depend on the cause of the inflammation and most often involves antibiotic or antifungal medication.
Vulvar cancer can cause itchy lesions to appear in the genital area. Exposure to HPV and smoking can increase your risk of developing this type of cancer. Treatment involves removing the cancerous tissue.
When the vulva – most commonly the labia, or vaginal lips – become irritated and inflamed, this is called vulvitis. It can occur to a wide range of conditions, including infection, injury, and allergies. It commonly causes itchiness, and sometimes pain. Like vaginitis, it is common in many different types of vaginal infections and treatment will depend on its cause.
Vulvodynia is classified as chronic pain or discomfort of the vulva – including burning, stinging, irritation, or a sensation of feeling “raw.” Vulvodynia actually means “painful vulva.” This condition can severely impact a woman’s quality of life and may prohibit participation in sexual activity, physical exercise, and even social activities. Treatment options are available to relieve a patient’s symptoms.
Vulvoscopy Procedure in Buffalo Grove, Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, Barrington & Bartlett, IL
Would you like to know more about vulvoscopy – or how the OB-GYN specialists at Women’s HealthFirst can diagnose and treat even the most challenging cases of chronic vaginitis and other symptoms? Call us at (847) 808-8884 or request your appointment now. We look forward to seeing you at one of our five convenient locations in northwest suburban Chicago.