Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer Skin Care for Down There

This past weekend, I went to a concert. Outside. In Texas. It was roughly a thousand degrees outside and lets just say I was sitting in a puddle by the end of the night. Oddly enough this got me thinking about my patients. Stay with me. I have many women who have vaginal pain including pain in the vulva or outer genital area and the vestibule which is the area of tissue leading up to your vaginal opening (FYI vestibule means little hallway-this is basically the foyer to your vagina). Before I go further, you should really go read a great article by my colleague Sara Sauder on just what exactly vulvodynia and vestibulodynia are. (Go Here)

Anyway, back to the concert. I was thinking about how hot and irritated that things can get "down there" during the summer. And that's for people who don't have vulvar pain on a daily basis! For many women who already have pain and irritation in that area, adding heat, sweat, sand, chlorine, etc. is a nightmare of biblical proportions. Maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but talk to one of my patients and they might say it's right on target. Many of these women can't even wear underwear and here comes summer with its pool parties, beach vacations and taking your kids to the water park. So what's a girl
to do?

  • First of all if you are going to be in a bathing suit, take a change of dry clothes. Too much moisture is irritating, so no riding home from the pool in a wet bathing suit. This goes for being sweaty after exercising as well.

  • Swimming can be a great form of exercise for people with pelvic pain, but you want to avoid highly chlorinated pools. If you live in Austin, you're lucky that there are lots of spring fed places to swim. 

  • If you do swim in chlorine, rinse off your vulva with cool to lukewarm water as soon as you get out. 

  • Avoid the hot tub! Chlorine + hot, hot water = irritation city.

  • When planning an exercise program, avoid activities that put direct pressure on the vulva such as bicycling and horseback riding.

  • Limit intense exercises that create a lot of friction in the vulvar area (try lower intensity exercises such as walking or yoga).
  • Apply a frozen gel pack wrapped in a towel to the area to relieve symptoms.

As a general rule there are things you can also do year-round to decrease your irritation.
  • Use unscented, white toilet paper, white cotton underwear and all cotton tampons and pads - I also recommend organic feminine hygiene products because some others contain chemicals that are irritating to that delicate area. 
  • Do not use bubble bath, feminine hygiene products, or any perfumed creams or soaps down there.
  • Avoid getting shampoo on the vulvar area.
Also, talk with your doctor about topical anesthetics that might be helpful to decrease pain in the area. Here's to a more comfortable summer!

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