Northwestern Medicine is now offering a specialized clinic for women with complex vulvar and vaginal conditions. Led by Rajal Patel, MD, the Comprehensive Program for Vulvar and Vaginal Health is the latest clinic integrated into the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Health and Menopause.

“As gynecologists we are trained to look at the inside but many women’s problems originate from the external, not internal, genitalia,” said Dr. Patel, a nationally known expert in vulvar and vaginal diseases, conditions that impact many women but can be challenging to diagnose and treat.  

The vulva includes the labia, clitoris and the opening of the vagina. Disorders that impact vulvar health include conditions such as vulvar precancer, vestibulodynia, lichen sclerosus, hidradenitis suppurativa and vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia, complicated words that are most commonly associated with burning, intense itching, discoloration, discharge or pain.

Collaboration with a diverse group of other physicians is one of her favorite parts of her specific subspecialty, she said.

“Being trained in vulvar and vaginal diseases is very specific, but you get to work with other doctors too,” she said. “I’m happy to be able to step in and say, ‘My expertise is in the vulva.’ Everyone knows this is a part of the body few have a specialized medical interest in.”

“These conditions really impact quality of life, and relationships in all age groups,” Dr. Patel said. “No woman should suffer these in silence because treatment is available. I’m here and I’m excited to help.”

The Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause was started by Lauren Streicher, MD, a well-known gynecologist and author singularly committed to the mission of improving women’s health in all areas of their lives. The vulvar clinic joins specialized clinics in sexual medicine, bone health, menopause and the BRAVA program, providing complimentary laser treatments for eligible women living with breast cancer to restore vaginal and vulvar health.

“Women and their health issues can no longer be dismissed,” said Dr. Streicher, who is a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Feinberg. “With our center and the addition of Dr. Patel, we are excited to provide even more solutions to serious medical conditions that impact women.”

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