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Vulval disease

'Vulva' is the general name given to the external parts of the female genitals. It includes: the mons pubis (the pad of fatty tissue covered with pubic hair); the clitoris; labia majora (the outer lips); labia minora (the smaller, inner lips); the vestibule (area immediately surrounding the vaginal opening); the urinary opening; vaginal opening; and the perineum (area of skin between the anus and vagina).

The skin of the vulva is extremely delicate, making it susceptible to a wide range of conditions. Conditions of the vulva are loosely grouped into: dermatological; sexually transmitted infections and thrush; vulvodynia (vulval pain); and pre-cancerous and cancerous conditions.

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Vulvoscopy

A vulvoscopy is a medical examination to look at your vulva. A colposcope (a small microscope with a bright light that can magnify areas so that the cells can be seen more clearly) may be used to identify any abnormal areas. Your doctor will apply a diluted acetic acid (like mild vinegar) onto your vulva to help identify and highlight any areas of abnormal cells. If an area is identified, a small sample of tissue – a biopsy – will be taken from the area. Anaesthetic cream is applied to the vulva to numb the area, and an injection of local anaesthetic is given. A biopsy is about the size of a pinhead. You may feel a slight stinging, but it should not be painful. Your doctor will inform you if he/she feels it is necessary to take a biopsy.