Female genital dermatology – it’s not exactly one of those topics that comes up in conversation very often.
But a top Auckland dermatologist wants to break the taboo, revealing many women are struggling with vulval skin conditions in silence because embarrassment is preventing them from seeking professional help.
In the latest episode of rova podcast Grey Areas released this morning, Dr Harriet Kennedy told host Petra Bagust “there’s absolutely no shame” in seeking treatment for a genital skin condition.
“Actually, quite the opposite – I think it's quite brave for women to come forward and get it sorted,” she said.
“Because that's where the power comes from: knowledge about what's going on. If you are anxious about something, that’s only going to compound if you're not moving forward and doing something about it.”
Dr Kennedy told Petra a recent study in Auckland revealed women in the region are dealing with genital skin conditions like lichen sclerosis, eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis for an average of 10 years before getting it diagnosed by a professional.
“That’s 10 years of of itching, pain or pain with sex before an actual diagnosis.”
The concern is augmented by the fact that vulval skin conditions are quite common – in particular lichen sclerosis, which Dr Kennedy estimates affects about one in 100 women at any given time.
So the sooner women work out they’re not alone and have nothing to be ashamed of, she says, the sooner we can get our quality of life back.
“Often a woman ends up leaving at the end of a consultation feeling relief, because she’s been carrying it on her own for so long,” says Dr Kennedy.
“To be able to talk about it – to have someone actually ask questions about it that show that they're interested and know what you're going through – it's really relieving to not be carrying that individually.
“AND OF COURSE, ANY CONSULTATION THAT YOU HAVE IS FULLY CONFIDENTIAL. SO IT'S A SAFE SPACE.”