What Is Labial Hypertrophy?
Some girls and young women express concerns about the appearance of their labia minora (the inner lips of the vulva). Labia vary in appearance with a wide range of “normal” regarding the size, shape and color. Rarely, labia minora are large enough to qualify as labial hypertrophy.
What Are the Symptoms of Labial Hypertrophy?
Girls may have questions about the appearance of their labia compared to their family members, friends or photographs. Some girls may complain that their labia cause them discomfort, make tampon use or sexual activity difficult, or are visible in tighter clothing or bathing suits.
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What Causes Labial Hypertrophy?
Larger-appearing labia minora may be completely normal. Early in the pubertal process, the labia minora may look larger than the labia majora (outer lips of the vulva). As patients move through puberty they deposit more fat in the labia majora. The fat deposits and subsequent growth in the labia majora then cause the labia minora to seem/appear relatively smaller.
Rarely, patients who are wheelchair-bound and have constant pressure and/or stimulation to the labia may experience labial growth leading to labial hypertrophy.
How Is Labial Hypertrophy Diagnosed?
A patient’s concerns about the appearance of her labia are best evaluated with an examination of the area with an experienced health care provider. A hand held mirror so the patient can point out areas of concern is often very helpful.
How Is Labial Hypertrophy Treated?
The vast majority of patients who have concerns about labial hypertrophy have normal labia. Treatment is focused on education, reassurance and body acceptance.
Often, sharing with the patients images of the wide variation in normal female anatomy is very beneficial. If patients have symptoms of labial irritation, looser fitting clothing and soaking in clean, warm bath water can be beneficial. Rarely, surgical intervention is required if the labia have a significant functional impact for the patient.