- What Is It
The exact cause of enlarged labia or labial hypertrophy is unknown. Studies, however, have suggested that several factors play a role in causing this condition.
Learn about what causes labial hypertrophy, as well as symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and surgery.
What causes labial hypertrophy?
Contrary to popular myth, labial hypertrophy is not caused by masturbation or sexually transmitted infections. Factors that may contribute to the condition include:
- Genetics: Your genes determine the structure and function of various body parts including the genitalia. Genetic variations can cause changes in the labial size and shape and may contribute to labial hypertrophy.
- Hormones: Female reproductive hormones can cause changes in the size, shape, and thickness of the labia, leading to hypertrophy. This may be seen around puberty due to a spurt in female hormones.
- Sustained pressure or trauma: Repeated trauma or pressure over the vulva can irritate the tissues, leading to hypertrophy. This may be seen in women involved in competitive cycling or those who are wheelchair-bound females, which can cause enlarged labia due to constant pressure over the area.
- Advancing age: Aging can cause changes to the external genitalia. Some women may experience shrinkage in labial tissues, whereas others may develop enlarged labia.
- Pregnancy: Labial hypertrophy can be seen during pregnancy and may occur due to two main factors: hormonal changes and pressure of the gravid uterus on the vulva. Changes in labia may also occur after childbirth.
What is labial hypertrophy?
Labial hypertrophy refers to the enlargement of the labia or vaginal lips. Labia refers to the folds of skin that cover the vaginal opening and form the female external genitalia or vulva. The outer and typically larger folds of skin are called labia majora, whereas the inner folds are called labia minora.
The size, shape, and thickness of the labia vary from one woman to another and at different stages of life. There are no specific criteria for what can be considered a “normal” size, shape, length, or color of the labia. Typically, however, the labia minora are smaller than the labia majora. In some cases, they may be larger and even protrude beyond the labia majora, a condition called labia minora hypertrophy. This may affect one or both the labia minora. Similarly, enlargement of one or both labia majora is called labia majora hypertrophy.
What are signs of labial hypertrophy?
Labial hypertrophy often does not cause any symptoms. Enlarged labia may cause the affected woman to feel self-conscious, particularly when wearing tight-fitting clothing or during sexual intercourse.
In some cases, the enlarged labia can cause discomfort, pain, or irritation. Considerable labial hypertrophy can cause problems with exercise or activities such as cycling and equestrianism. Moreover, it can cause pain or irritation during sexual activity. Repeated friction and hygiene issues due to labial hypertrophy can also lead to infections.
How is labial hypertrophy diagnosed?
There are no specific tests or measurements to diagnose labial hypertrophy. Because the size, shape, and color of labia vary widely, diagnosis is generally made based on direct examination and assessment symptoms.
In the case of labia minora hypertrophy, the doctor will examine the vulva to see if the labia minora extends or protrudes beyond labia majora.
What are possible complications of labial hypertrophy?
Labial hypertrophy is generally not a cause for concern. In some cases, however, it can cause infections that need to be treated with prescribed medications.
Some women may experience emotional stress due to their larger labia and require counseling and reassurance.
How is labial hypertrophy treated?
In many cases, labial hypertrophy may not cause physical discomfort. Psychological counseling after proper medical examination may suffice in such cases.
Your doctor may advise self-care tips such as:
- Wear breathable cotton underwear
- Avoid tight-fitting clothing
- Maintain proper hygiene in the area
- Do not use soap or fragrances in the area
- Pat dry with a soft towel or hypoallergenic tissue after washing
- Avoid washing underwear with harsh detergents
- Use tampons instead of sanitary napkins
- Apply cooling gels if discomfort occurs
- Apply coconut oil or ointments with vitamins A and D if friction occurs
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What is surgery for labial hypertrophy?
In rare cases, surgical repair of the labia, called labiaplasty, may be advised. This surgery involves reshaping or shortening the labia. It may be done for cosmetic reasons or if the condition causes unwanted symptoms.
Labiaplasty may be performed as a daycare procedure, which means you can go home the same day after surgery. Your doctor may administer general anesthesia or local anesthesia with sedation. The repair of the labia may be done using a scalpel or laser with self-dissolving sutures (stitches) applied at the end of the procedure. The entire surgery usually takes less than 2 hours.
After the procedure, you may be kept for some time under observation to check your vitals and watch for any bleeding. If a urinary catheter was placed, it will be removed.
When the anesthesia wears off, your doctor will discuss post-surgery care, including wound care. They may also prescribe pain medications and offer advice to manage discomfort and accelerate healing. Your doctor may ask you to avoid certain activities including swimming and intercourse for a few weeks after surgery. You may need to avoid tampons and use sanitary towels for a few weeks after the procedure.
Your doctor will instruct you to watch for warning signs such as:
- Severe pain
- Wound breakdown
Moreover, your doctor will advise you about follow-up care after the surgery.
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