The labia, also called labia, are part of the outer sex of a woman. A distinction is made between the large, outer labia and the small, inner labia. When looking at the female genitals from the outside, usually only the outer labia are visible, as they usually completely cover the small, inner labia. However, there are also many women in whom the inner labia protrude between the outer labia. Their function is mainly to protect the internal sexual organs, such as the vagina, from external influences and from drying out.
The outer labia are counted as the outer sexual organs of a woman, just as in inner labia. In general, it can be said that the outer labia are skin folds, which are composed of fat, connective tissue, sweat and sebaceous glands and smooth muscles. In addition, the labia are crossed by many vessels and nerves.
Anatomically, the inner and outer side of the outer labia can also be distinguished. The outer side is hairy, dry and pigmented. The inner side of the labia majora is more like a mucous membrane.
There is hardly or no hair on the inner side, there is hardly any sweat and the skin is rather reddened, soft and moist. Due to the high number of tactile corpuscles in the labia majora, the outer as well as the inner labia are very sensitive to touch stimuli. The labia extend from the mons veneris in the direction of the perineum and merge into each other at the rear part, near the perineum. In medical jargon this transition is also called “Commissura labiorum posterior”.
The outer labia usually cover the inner labia, the clitoris, the urethral opening and the vagina. Their main function is therefore to protect these parts of the body from external pathogens and from drying out. Because the labia majora are made up of a strong fat pad, they also provide mechanical protection for these body parts.
Furthermore, the outer labia have an influence on sexual intercourse. For example, they can swell during sexual intercourse. This exposes the entrance to the vagina. After sexual intercourse, the labia become swollen again and reach their original size. .
Symptoms on the labia majora
Itching in the area of the outer female sex is a common symptom in women and can be caused by a variety of reasons. The normal environment in the area of the external genitals and the vagina also includes bacteria – usually lactic acid bacteria. However, these bacteria are not harmful, but perform essential tasks in the female intimate area.
For example, they are responsible for the acidic environment in the vagina and thus protect against harmful germs. Various influences, such as bleeding, antibiosis or other external factors, can prevent the bacteria from functioning properly and thus the protection can no longer be maintained. Without bacteria, the external genitals, which include the labia majora, are a good place for fungi, parasites and bacteria that do not belong to the normal vaginal flora to nest.
The colonisation of any pathogens can eventually lead to extreme itching. Other causes of itching in the area of the external genital organs can be diabetes mellitus, skin diseases, psychological causes (e.g. over-nursing) or even precancerous stages. If the itching is persistent or recurrent, a gynaecologist should be consulted to determine the exact cause.
Burning in the area of the external genitals is usually a painful event. Burning pain is often triggered by a herpes virus. Alternatively, burning, painful pain can also be triggered by trichomoniasis or streptococcus bacteria.
If various antiviral or antibiotic drugs have no effect over a longer period of time, this may indicate the cause of a “vulvodynia” or “burning vulva”. The exact cause of this disease is not known – but it is strongly suspected to be associated with irritant dermatitis. This is an intolerant reaction of the skin to various external influences.
Despite positive bacterial cultures in the genital area, antibiotics seem to have no effect, which is why “vulvodynia” is often a long-term, persistent disease. Learn more about this topic under: The vagina burns – these are the causes. The swelling of the labia can have different causes.
On the one hand, the outer, as well as the inner labia swell up during sexual arousal. This is completely natural. However, the swelling of the labia may also have pathological causes.
If the swelling of the labia minora is prolonged, this may indicate an inflammation caused by pathological agents (fungi, bacteria, viruses, etc.). However, in most cases this can be treated quickly and efficiently with medication. By far the most common cause of swelling in the external genital area is bartholinitis.
This is an inflammation of the excretory ducts of the Bartholin glands. If only one side of the labia minora is affected, this usually indicates such a Bartholinitis. If an inflammation of the Bartholin glands is suspected, a gynaecologist or general practitioner should be consulted to avoid possible recurrences and thus Bartholin cysts.
Pimples on the outer labia are primarily no cause for concern. As with almost every other part of the body, pimples filled with pus can develop on the labia. Any pimples are due to the hormone balance and the sebaceous glands that are affected by it.
Sebaceous glands can be found all over the body, including in the area of the labia majora. A further cause of pimples in the area of the labia majora can be intimate shaving and ingrown hair. Good hygiene is important to avoid pimples after intimate shaving.
If you are unsure whether a pimple is actually a pimple or not, a wart should be seen by a gynaecologist. In addition, good intimate hygiene and the avoidance of very tight-fitting clothing in the area of the external genital organs is also important. The colour of the labia may vary greatly from woman to woman.
There is no “normal variant” for this. However, in a large number of women the colour of the labia is slightly darker than their normal skin tone. As a rule, the colour of the labia usually changes in the course of life only in special situations, such as during sexual intercourse or pregnancy.
During sexual intercourse, the labia swell up, making them appear larger and slightly darker. However, this appearance quickly disappears again after sexual intercourse. Further external changes in the area of the labia are observed during pregnancy. During pregnancy it is not uncommon to observe a dark coloration of the labia, which is caused by an increased melanin storage and therefore has no pathological value whatsoever. This dark colouring can also persist after pregnancy.