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Sores on the female genitals
Sores or lesions on the female genitalia or in the vagina may have a number of possible causes.
Genital sores may be painful, itchy, produce a discharge, or cause no symptoms at all.
Because genital lesions or sores can have a negative affect on a person's self-image, many people do not seek proper medical care. All genital sores should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Itching, painful urination, or painful sexual intercourse often occur with genital lesions.
Sores or lesions on the female genitals are often caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STIs that can cause these sores include:
Precancerous changes of the vulva (vulvar dysplasia) may appear as white, red, or brown patches on the vulva, and may cause itching. The vulva can also develop skin cancers such as melanoma and basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.
Nonsexually transmitted diseases may also produce sores on the genitals. In young girls (before puberty), common causes of genital sores include:
Less common causes include:
Avoid treating yourself before seeing a doctor. It can mask the symptoms and make it more difficult to diagnose the cause of the sore.
A sitz bath may help relieve itching and crusting. Moist lesions can be dried using a heat lamp.
If the sores are caused by a sexually transmitted infection, notify your sexual partner so that he or she can be treated. Stop all sexual activity until the sores are no longer infectious.
Call your doctor if you:
Your doctor will perform a physical examination and ask medical questions to identify:
The physical examination will usually include a pelvic examination.
The following tests may be done:
Treatment may include medications that are applied to the skin or that are taken by mouth. The type of medication depends on the cause, but may include corticosteroids, antiviral drugs, antibiotics, or drugs to control itching.
Frumovitz M, Bodurka DC. Neoplastic diseases of the vulva: lichen sclerosus, intraepithelial neoplasia, Paget's disease, carcinoma. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap. 30.
Eckert L, Lentz GM. Infections of the lower genital tract: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome, HIV infections. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap. 22.
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