Aunt Vadge: lumps on labia – do I have hidradenitis?

Dear Aunt Vadge,

I am very worried. I have come to you twice before and you have been so helpful. But I don’t know if you remember last time I asked you something – it was about that problem on my vagina’s lip, an ingrown hair, and that it was purple and looked like a pimple. You sent me steps of how to get rid of it, but I couldn’t find a hair in it anywhere, and I have had ingrown hairs now, but this wasn’t like it. [Yes of course we remember!]

It kept bleeding before, and it would close, but then I went to the doctor when I was sick and he looked at it but said it was a type of bite… It didn’t seem right, maybe cos he was a male, but this was in like May or June, and when he looked at it, it had formed a scar-type bruise (well, it was starting to) so he gave me an antibiotic.

It then turned into like a scar, but feels like a stretch mark and is the colour of a bruise. It isn’t sore and is completely flat like a scar. It has been like this ever since. But I just want it to go away as I have a boyfriend and I don’t want him seeing this. And whenever I shave, I still get razor burn, but if I try to pop them, they have a yellow pus and they bleed and are so small.

But I have another problem I am worried about. I have recently been getting bumps or lumps near my vagina on the lips, and I did some research and they have the same symptoms as an abscess. It is very sore and it’s on the left side in the groin / lip area and there are two and they are quite big. My mom isn’t the best person to talk to about this.

Please help, as I’m scared I have hidradenitis. I can’t have an STD as I haven’t come Into contact with anyone infected, and I have a boyfriend but we have only been dating a few weeks and haven’t gone into any contact down there at all, as he is very Christian. I haven’t got it from someone else, as my previous boyfriend fingered me, but I knew he did not have an STD. So I’m really freaked out and I don’t know what to do. Is this urgent? Please help!

Yours,
A very worried girl
Age 15, Cape Town, South Africa

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Dearest Very Worried Girl,

Thanks for writing back to us again, and sorry to hear your labia are not behaving themselves. Your investigative skills are second to none – what you seem to have does seem to be in line with hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), so read our article on this condition, and read through to the section on diagnosis and see if your lumps and bumps match the description.

Based on what you’ve told me, your symptoms would fit into this category, however, it’s important to note that your lumps may be from other causes, and you must go back to the doctor (armed with your Dr Google diagnosis!) and demand he take you seriously. It is not just an insect bite, and the longer he leaves you, the more damage will be caused by scarring, no matter what the cause. You are also in a lot of pain which needs addressing.

The HS article has information at the bottom for naturopathic ideas for helping to manage the inflammation that is a result (or cause) of this condition, with the primary route of defence being your diet, which actually works very well no matter what the problem is. I understand that living at home at age 15 means you don’t get to choose what you eat every day with any predictability, so it will be a bit harder for you, but there are things you can do to help keep your follicles, lymphatic system and sweat glands in good working order.

It is very hard to tell what else it could be without examining you, but what is important is that you are not dying! Freaking out causes your body to essentially stop functioning properly, and that’s not what you need right now. Relax, take a deep breath, and know that you have every opportunity to A) find out what the real problem is with your doctor (and then freak out if you want to!) and B) treat the problem effectively so it never returns.

What to do in the meantime

You really need to stop shaving – you are just going to make whatever this is worse, including your razor burn – it’s not worth it, so just give it up. I promise your boyfriend will not care, and if he is a lovely person, he will want you to be well and happy, and if that means a bit hairy, then so be it.

Honestly, hair is not the big deal it’s made out to be, and people care much less than we are led to believe. He no doubt has a full bush, and you should rock the same. You can keep it trimmed with a beard trimmer or scissors to keep it in check.

Keep the area dry and clean, and avoid irritants – so no drying soaps, perfumes, moisturisers, printed toilet paper, cheap laundry detergent or tight clothes.

What to do next

Your body is a mysterious and beautiful piece of meat, and you are at the very beginnings of learning about all the millions of things that can go wrong, and then be corrected and made right. It is important to learn about what your body needs to defend itself, and start now – eat good food, sleep heaps, exercise, drink plenty of water, and laugh. The rest is generally out of your hands, so don’t worry about it, but keep in mind that what you put in is actually what you get out.

So, your job is to make another appointment with the doctor, and if you didn’t feel listened to last time, perhaps it’s time to get a new doctor. A female doctor can be useful as you grow up, since there will be pap smears, STI checks, and poking and prodding of your vag when things go haywire (which they will do – it’s normal), plus pregnancies to contend with.

You may feel more comfortable and relate more easily to a woman doctor. This is your call. I’ve always found I love my lady doctors more than my male doctors – it doesn’t make them better doctors necessarily, but the relationship you have with your doctor is a very important one. You should always feel listened to and looked after.

If you do want to switch, as around for good female doctors in your area, and ask your last doctor for a copy of all of your notes – you can get a photocopy/print-out of them all and take them to your first appointment with your new doctor, so they have all the information they need at their fingertips immediately, including the part where your doctor called your ‘thing’ an insect bite!

You will be just fine my dear. As always, write back anytime.

Warmest regards,
Aunt Vadge