Dr. Patel Leads Program for Vulvar and Vaginal Health
January 27, 2021 | 2 min. to read
Women with symptoms of vulvar and vaginal disorders often keep them quiet, believing there is no remedy for their pain and frustration. The prevalence of such conditions among women of all ages is hard to assess because they are underdiagnosed and undertreated. Now Northwestern Medicine has opened a clinic specifically to help women with complex vulvar and vaginal conditions.
Led by Rajal C. Patel, MD, the Comprehensive Program for Vulvar and Vaginal Health is the latest clinic integrated into the Center for Sexual Health and Menopause. The program brings together the expertise of gynecologists, dermatologists, and pelvic floor physical therapists to treat sexual pain disorders, vulvodynia, infections and dermatologic conditions that affect the vulva (external genitalia) and the vagina.
“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.
Disorders that affect vulvar health include conditions such as vulvar pre-cancer, vestibulodynia, lichen sclerosus, hidradenitis suppurativa and vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia, and are most commonly associated with burning, intense itching, discoloration, discharge or pain. These conditions affect many women but can be challenging to diagnose and treat.
“These conditions really impact quality of life and relationships in all age groups,” Dr. Patel says. “No woman should suffer these in silence because treatment is available. I’m here and I’m excited to help.”
Collaboration with a diverse group of physicians is one of Dr. Patel’s favorite parts of her subspecialty. “Being trained in vulvar and vaginal diseases is very specific, but I get to work with other doctors too,” she says. “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.”
The Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause was started by Lauren F. Streicher, MD, a well-known gynecologist and author committed to the mission of improving women’s health in all areas of their lives. The vulvar program joins specialized clinics in sexual medicine, bone health and menopause and the Breast Cancer Vaginal Health Access (BRAVA) program, which provides complimentary laser treatments to eligible women living with breast cancer to restore vaginal and vulvar health. “Women and their health issues can no longer be dismissed,” says Dr. Streicher, who is also a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “With our center and the addition of Dr. Patel, we are excited to provide even more solutions to serious medical conditions that affect women.”