Did you think PCOS only causes increased hair growth, hormonal changes, and missed periods? Think again! Let’s take a look into how PCOS actually affects your vulva! Many women may not even know that most of the symptoms they face with their nether regions are connected with PCOS! But, don’t worry. I gotchu.
I know it sucks, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. The first step towards becoming the Boss of your PCOS is understanding how it changes your body. And once you do that, you can pin it to the ground and blast it with your girl power.
As a Registered Dietitian, PCOS expert, and fellow PCOS warrior, I know firsthand how this condition can affect a woman’s life. But you know what? It’s absolutely manageable. So let’s dive straight into how PCOS affects your vulva (external genitalia) & what can be done about it!
6 Ways PCOS Can Affect Your Vulva
PCOS can affect a lot of things in your body, from hormones to a disturbed menstrual cycle. However, it can also impact your external genitalia aka your lady bits & can cause the following problems:
1. Vulvar Discoloration
PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) can cause skin discoloration in the vulvar area. For many, this discoloration is of dark color and can appear as thick patches. Although it may sound alarming and something serious at first, it is generally harmless.
According to experts, vulvar discoloration has to do with high insulin levels and androgens in the body. Both of these hormones speed up melanin production in the skin. And, in case you didn’t know, melanin is a pigment that gives color to your skin and hair.
To control this vulvar discoloration, you will have to keep your insulin levels under control. I always tell my clients that one of the best ways to achieve this is to follow a PCOS-supportive diet. This will help you keep your hormones, like insulin, in balance while avoiding vulvar discoloration.
2. Yeast Infections
When the increased blood sugar levels are paired with hormonal imbalances, it increases the risk of yeast infections. Yet again, PCOS strikes to change your vulva and cause a nasty, not-so-fun yeast infection.
Yeast is a type of fungus that can actually grow inside as well as outer parts of your vagina & around the other genital parts. And if you have ever had to face yeast infections, you will know all about the burning, itching, and discharge that can happen! Oh my!
According to research, higher glucose levels in the body eventually make their way into your vaginal secretions. This leads to the perfect environment in which yeast will thrive.
However, one important thing to note here is that yeast infections can occur in anyone regardless of whether or not they have PCOS. But the chances of a yeast infection increase significantly among women with PCOS!
With a proper diet and exercise routine, you can actually keep your blood glucose levels under control, lowering your chances of a yeast infection.
3. Dry Burning Labia (Lips)
Another classic symptom of PCOS affecting your vulva is that it can cause dryness and burning of your lips aka labia. Once again, high sugar levels are to blame here! High sugar levels over a prolonged period can damage the nerve endings and blood vessels in the labia.
This can lead to decreased lubrication in the vagina which ultimately makes the lips dry & even leads to a burning sensation.
When it comes to dealing with PCOS, pretty much all the experts agree that the best way to beat it is to make dietary and lifestyle changes. And this symptom of dry-burning lips can also be controlled with a PCOS-friendly diet!
4. Swelling and Itching
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) also increases the chances of getting bacterial vaginosis (BV). This is a condition in which the normal flora of the vagina is disrupted, which leads to the overgrowth of bad bacteria in the vagina.
As a result of this disturbance, women can experience certain symptoms such as swelling, itching, abnormal discharge, and even a strong fishy odor.
And last but not least, the hormonal imbalances and the high blood glucose levels also make the vagina a favorable place for bacteria to grow.
Once again, there is a strong connection between insulin resistance and bacterial vaginosis (BV). In addition, gut bacteria are also disturbed by PCOS, which is also a contributing factor to symptoms like these.
5. Increased Hair Growth (hirsutism)
You may already know that PCOS causes increased hair growth all over the body. Now when I say all over the body, it also means your external genitalia (vulva) as well.
So another tell-tale way in which PCOS affects the vulva is an increased amount of dark & coarse hairs on the vulva. This has to do with the increased production of androgens in the body, among other reasons. And, in case you were wondering why the production of androgen increases in PCOS, it has to do with insulin resistance and high insulin levels in the body.
High levels of insulin in the body increase the production of androgens in the ovaries! So even the increased hair growth (hirsutism) is tied to high insulin levels!
6. Formation of Cysts or Nodules
Another way in which Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can affect your vulva is through the formation of cysts or nodules.
These irregular growths on the vulva can be attributed to hormonal imbalances in PCOS, which leads to excess androgens production. These hormones make the vulva’s glandular tissues enlarge, which eventually leads to the formation of cysts and nodules.
Normally, these cysts in the vulvar region are usually filled with fluids, while the nodules appear as small & solid lumps. Both of these (cysts & nodules) cause pain, swelling, and general discomfort in the vulvar region.
How to Avoid These Problems
Want to avoid all of these troublesome symptoms or to even stop them from ever happening? Then here’s a rundown of what you can do to beat PCOS:
Follow a diet that’s specially made for PCOS!
Follow a daily exercise routine to keep your body moving.
Keep your anxiety levels low by following simple stress reduction exercises.
Keep a close eye on your weight & ensure that you are following a good diet/exercise plan! Excess weight can exacerbate blood sugar and insulin issues.
I’ve made my career and life’s work helping women like us be the boss of their PCOS once and for all. And if you feel your precious lady parts have been the victim of PCOS I have a TON of resources for you inside my program The PCOS Thrive Hive. Just follow the link and subscribe to be notified immediately when my new program launches.