The vulva is the name given to the external female genital organs.

At the top of the vulva is the mons pubis. Below the mons pubis there are two folds of skin called the labia majora (outer lips) and labia minora (inner lips).

The labia minora changes during puberty and often become more prominent. This is completely normal, like all of the other changes that take place during puberty. The appearance of the vulva continues to change throughout your life because of hormonal changes and age. The appearance of the vulva also varies between females.

Many women put up with vulvar discomfort, either because they are embarrassed and are not sure where to seek help. Many issues can be treated, others may need a long term plan to provide symptom relief. All symptoms or changes noticed in this part of the body should be checked by a medical professional to exclude uncommon but serious causes.


Vulvar problems

The skin in the vulval area is very sensitive and some women experience discomfort such as:

  • itchiness
  • burning sensation
  • pain
  • swelling
  • lumps
  • ulcers
  • vaginal discharge

These symptoms can be caused by a range of conditions such as:

  • allergy and hypersensitivity (soap, laundry detergent, toilet paper, sanitary pads, underwear)
  • skin conditions (dermatitis, psoriasis)
  • infections (thrush, genital herpes, genital warts)
  • vulvodynia (pain in the vulva)
  • pre-cancerous and cancerous conditions
  • vulval varices (varicose veins)

If you do have any of these symptoms it is important to have a check-up so the problem can be diagnosed and treated.

For more information, please see True's Vulvar and Vaginal Health fact sheet and the Women's Health Queensland Wide Vulval conditions fact sheet.