My Vulva Is Melting (And Yours Might Be, Too)

Going public about a private disease.

Image created by me via Canva.
7-year-old me in the midst of watching a Mystery Diagnosis marathon on TLC. (Gif from GIPHY).

“So, your vulva is kind of… melting,” my gynecologist said from between my legs.

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash
My mother, consoling me after that gynecologist swabbed the ulcers in a way that screamed, “That’s what you get!” (Gif from GIPHY).

Despite each of these things, I was pretty shocked by my gynecologist’s proclamation.

“You have quite a bit of scar tissue,” she went on. “Are you aware of that?”

A licensed medical professional had just told me that my vulva was melting, so at that rate, I figured anything was possible.

She pointed to two lines on my labia majora and explained that they were actually areas of scar tissue where my labia minora had fused back into the labia majora. This is what she meant by “melting.”

So… what the fuck?

“None of this is your fault,” my doctor said, probably to break the silence between us. “These are all symptoms of a condition called lichen sclerosus.”

Lichen Sclerosus

Who is she and what is she doing to my body?

Photo by Charles on Unsplash

What is it?

Lichen sclerosus (LS) is a chronic inflammatory condition that is characterized by changes in the skin, such as thinning, scarring, and fusing.

Symptoms

  • Itching to the nth degree
  • Small white spots on the skin (early in the disease)
  • Thinning and lightening of the skin
  • Tearing, bruising, or bleeding from minor rubbing of the skin
  • Changes in vulvar architecture (such as the disappearance of the labia minora and tightening of the skin due to the growth of scar tissue), indicative of advanced disease
  • Pain during or after sex
  • In severe cases, blistering and ulcerated sores

Itching? Probably a yeast infection.

Pain after sex? Probably too rough.

Blistering? Well… maybe it’s time to see a doctor.

The point is, the symptoms for lichen sclerosus aren’t exactly unique. During multiple visits to my previous gynecologist, I’d mentioned that I was routinely in pain during or after sex, that I sometimes woke up in the middle of the night after unconsciously scratching myself to the point of bleeding, and that I overall felt like something wasn’t right.

Shoutout to that doctor for opening my eyes to the idea of speaking up during sex and advocating for my own damn body! Never would have thought of it on my own! (Gif from GIPHY)

Slow cooking in the crock pot of life. Writing about its many spices on The Baked Bean https://www.thebakedbean.org/

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