Labia Minora Definition
Labia minora, also known as vaginal lips, small lips, or nymphae are two skin flaps on either side of the female vaginal opening in the vulva. It lies inside the labia major and is devoid of hair. These folds offer protection to openings of urethra and vagina and are located below medial and mons pubis to the labia majora. It contains elastin protein fibers and collagen that offers it elasticity.
The connective tissues of labia minora contain numerous sebaceous glands that protect and lubricate the underlying tissues. Besides this, it contains erectile tissue, sweat glands, and an assortment of nerve endings. Usually, labia minora is moist and is visible only when the labia majora are drawn apart.
Labia Minora Location
The labia minora is located within the vulva on either side of the vaginal opening. It continues from the clitoris and extends downwards at an angle and on backward of both sides of the vulval vestibule. Its final position is between the bottom part of the Labia majora and vulval vestibule. The length of labia minora may vary from person to person. There is a middle line connecting the labia minora through a different layer of skin known as frenulum or fourchette.
Labia Minora Characteristics
Labia minora receives an excellent supply of blood vessels and hence holds a pink color. In other cases, the color may vary. Also, the size and shape of labia minora vary from individual to individual.
Labia Minora Types
The labia minora varies from person to person. Some of the common types of labia minora are as follows:
Labia Minora Asymmetrical
In this type, the labia minora on one side is longer than the other side and hangs downwards a little closer the labia majora. It is the most common type and gives an uneven look.
Labia Minora Curved
This type holds curved labia majora exposing the labia minora in the front. However, the bottom is even and appears like an inverted horseshoe.
Labia Minora Prominent
In this type, the labia minora is longer or bigger than the labia majora. As a result, the inner lips extend below the outer lips and the protrusion can be high, subtle or moderately invisible.
Labia Minora Flat
It is the opposite of the prominent labia minora, where the labia majora is larger than the labia minora. As a result, the labia minora is visible but is puffed between the exterior walls.
Labia Minora Closed
This is the least common form where the labia minora is closed and hidden between the labia majora. The outer lips are flat and rest on the pubic bone.
Labia Minora Anatomy
There are multiple layers of skin tissues within the labia minora. The exterior layer of the labia minor if built with non-keratinized stratified squamous epithelium that is linked to the skin near it. The reduced volume of keratin in the Labia minora diminishes the toughness and strength of the region and makes it waterproof. But if the volume is more then it will make it soft and smooth.
Within the deep epithelium layer, there is another layer of the fibrous connective tissues linked to the dermis of the skin. There are protein fibers present in the connective tissues, which are known as elastin and collagen that offer elasticity and strength to the labia minora.
Besides these, there are other tissues in the region such as nervous and vascular tissues that perform the function of supporting the cells within the epithelial layer.
The labia minora extends angularly downward from the clitoris and backward on either side of the vulval vestibule. It ends between the bottom of the labia majora and vulval vestibule. The posterior or bottom ends of the labia minora are mainly linked across the central line through a skin fold, known as frenulum or fourchette.
At the front area, each lip divides into two parts encompassing the clitoris. The upper portion of the lip moves above the clitoris to meet the upper area of the other side of the labia minora. This forms a fold that overhands the clitoral tip, known as glans clitoridis. The lower area moves under the glans clitoridis and blends to the under the surface of the labia minora of opposite side creating frenulum clitoridis.
Labia Minora Functions
The function of labia minora is to protect any kind of mechanical irritation, infections, and dryness in the extremely sensitive region of the vulval vestibule with urethral and vaginal openings in between. Also, the opening of female external urethral is located in the between labia minora and hence it plays a pivotal role in guiding the urine stream during urination.
Labia Minora Clinical Complications
The structure of labia minora is highly sensitive and it is located very close to the excretion area where traces of vaginal discharge, feces, urine, and smegma might be present. As a result, there might be various clinical complications related to the vulva, like vulvitis.
The inflammation of labia minora can be reduced with appropriate hygienic conditions of the vulval vestibule with water and proper medically certified cleansing agents designed to clean the intimate areas. The contamination of the vulva with any bacterial infection can be prevented by cleaning regularly the vulva from back and front.
Any incorrect application of the cleansing agent can result in irritation of the labia and if the irritation is more, then it needs medical assistance. Besides bacterial infections, the irritation of the labia may occur due to wearing tight clothes, G-strings, or any bacteria transferred from the external area of the anus.
Labia Minora Blood Supply
The lateral aspects of the labia minora and external genitalia receive their supply of blood from the external pudendal artery, which is a branch of the femoral artery. Also, the mons pubis in the region is supplied by blood through the inferior epigastric artery, which is a branch of the external iliac artery.
Labia Minora Histology
There are numerous sebaceous glands on the opposed surface of labia minora that do not contain any hair follicles. These are layered by stratified squamous epithelium on such surfaces. There is mucus secreted by these glands and with the entire area of the vulval vestibule, they protect the labia minora from experiencing any mechanical irritation or dryness.
Labia Minora Pictures
Labia Minora Diseases
The labia minora is one of the most sensitive regions of the female vulva and hence it is open to numerous diseases and infections. Also, this region is linked to a number of skin cells. For this reason, the ailments of labia minora might become unbearable and highly irritating. Some of the common ailments of the labia minora are as follows:
This ailment of labia minora occurs due to use of cleansing lubricants and agents in an inappropriate way. This problem may occur even due to an incorrect application of an agent that may cause extreme irritation and pain in the labia minora. If the pain and irritation are more, then you may need medical assistance.
Also, the lack of estrogen in females, particularly during puberty and accompanied by intense and regular rubbing results in the condition of Labial fusion. If the fusion is high then it may also result in blocking of the urine passage.
In most women, the labia minora is not balanced or symmetrical. Just like there are variations in size, shape, length, and color, the symmetry of Labia minora also varies. This leads to a medical condition where the labia minora may be so long to labia majora that it may become painful and uncomfortable. Also, in severe cases, the condition may lead to enlarged labia minora that is bulgingly visible through the clothing.
The labia minora is located in the path of excretion area where there are numerous traces of vaginal discharge, urine, feces, and smegma that may cause continuous and prolonged irritation of the Labia Minora. Hence, this may lead to an inflammatory chronic infection known as vulvitis.
A female undergoes numerous hormonal changes during her puberty and one major reason for this change is due to augmented estrogen levels, which is because of enlargement of labia minora.
Another major cause of problems in labia minora is due to the genes. Some women may have enlarged labia minora due to genetic reasons, and hence, experience complications because of the same.
In addition to this, some shock or trauma or even chronic infections can cause ailments of labia minora.
Pregnancy is another major reason for the problem of labia minora in women. It is because during pregnancy a large volume of blood rushes towards the genital region of the woman and may result in subsequent and heftiness of the labia minora.
Signs and Symptoms
This is a highly sensitive region and if women touch it regularly then this may cause the problem. In most situations, women experience pain and inflammation in labia minora during their periods. This is mainly because during periods it becomes difficult for them to clean the surface well.
If any female has enlarged labia minora then this might lead to constant touching of the region. Hence, it may rub on the clothes and result in continuous friction leading to the irritated and inflamed skin.
If any woman performs stringent physical activities then there might be a pressure on the labia minora. This may result in discomfort and pain in the region.
The problem of labia minora hypertrophy is treated by removing excess tissue through a surgical process known as Labioplasty. This surgery is mainly performed to reduce the size of the labia minora and offer it with a new, comfortable shape.
Another disease of labia minora, known as labial fusion is treatable when the inner lips are separated over time. This is the minor case of the problem and heals with the topical application of estrogen-based creams.
If the problem of labial fusion is high then the entire urine passage is blocked by an inflammation. The fusion gets a break and then a surgical process is required to be performed to remove the fused tissues. It is advised to not use any cosmetic products to which you are allergic as it will make the situation worse.
The vulvitis is inflammation of labia minora, and hence, the first step to treatment is to stop using any product causing allergy to it. Also, it is essential to clean the area well and keep it dry and moisture free. Lastly, it can be treated with topical application of estrogen creams prescribed by the doctors.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much time does the Labiaplasty surgery take?
Although the duration for labiaplasty depends on individual procedures, still it takes between 1 to 2 hours to complete the process.
What is the cause of enlarged labia minora?
There is no specific cause for the enlargement of labia minora. While some women are born with enlarged labia minora, others may develop it after puberty, childbirth, or aging.
What is the normal size of Labia Minora?
The size of labia minor varies from person to person. But on an average, the size is considered to be between 2mm to 4mm. Even the size changes with an increase in age.