Myths and Suggestions

Suggestions if You Suffer from a Vulval Disease

Environmental modification is key, no matter what you suffer from.

Every vulval condition will benefit from environmental modification. The minimum each patient should be doing includes:

  • Avoid all contact with soap. Soap substitutes are available from your chemist.
  • Wear cotton underwear
  • Use tampons rather than pads if you can.
  • Never wear panti-liners
  • Never wear G-stings
  • Use a clipper for hair removal rather than waxing.
  • Wear underwear and pants that are loose enough to be comfortable
  • Do not wear lycra at the gym
  • Avoid sporting activities that cause heavy sweating and over-heating
  • Use a non-irritating lubricant such as vegetable oil
  • If sex hurts, don’t do it right now

Realise that anything genital is highly emotionally charged

If you have a rash down there, it is always going to be a lot more anxiety provoking than if you had the same skin disease occurring on another part of the skin. It can be helpful to matter-of-factly realise that this is just a skin disease and nothing more.

Don’t be too embarrassed to tell your doctor that your problem is interfering with your sex life.

Many people are too embarrassed to talk about pain with intercourse even when it is their main concern. You may feel ashamed about not functioning “normally” but what you have read about in the press regarding what is normal is an idealised viewpoint where sex is never unpleasant. There are many people for whom it is a problem and don’t feel embarrassed that you are one of them, especially when it comes to raising the matter with your doctor.

Things you might be scared about: Cancer, sexually transitted diseases and child abuse.

Are you secretly worried about sexually transmitted disease and/or cancer? Do you have any bad memories of unwelcome sexual advances from anyone when you were a child? Any genital problem will make you wonder if there is a connection between what is going on now and what happened in the past.

The fact is however that most genital diseases have nothing to do with these frightening possibilities and are just harmless skin diseases. Hardly any of them can be transmitted to your partner.

What is the difference between a disease you can pass on and one you can’t?

The only skin diseases you can pass on to your sexual partner are infections caused by viruses and occasionally bacteria: this includes genital warts, molluscum contagiosum (another virus which causes small lumps on the genital area) and genital herpes. Other sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhoea and HIV disease are never responsible for rashes on the genitals, although they may sometimes cause an ulcer. Fungal infections such as thrush are very unlikely to be passed from one partner to the other.

Most vulval rashes are not things you can pass on: dermatitis, lichen sclerosus and psoriasis are not “catching”, they are just things that you suffer from , a lot like asthma or epilepsy or diabetes.

My daughter has an itchy vulval rash. Could it be sexual abuse?

Genital skin rashes are not caused by sexual abuse, they happen because the child is susceptible to certain skin problems.

Child sexual abuse is however a major problem in our society and it is twice as common for girls to be victims than boys. We know that about 20% (one in five) women have memories of sexual abuse as children.

Although a vulval skin problem does not rule out sexual abuse, neither is it a reason alone to suspect it unless that problem is a sexually transmitted infection such as genital warts or genital herpes.

All the research on sexual abuse tells us that people who do it are usually known and trusted by the child, so they are frequently family members. It may be unbearably painful to even consider this and it is only natural that if a child goes to any form of child care you will be directing your suspicions there, rather than any immediate family member, but the truth is that it is usually someone a lot closer to the child. This sometimes has disastrous consequences for innocent child-care workers. If you are genuinely concerned tell your doctor or just ring the DOCS helpline.