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labial adhesion A very common condition in infant girls in which the labia (the folds of tissues covering the genitals) stick together. Labial adhesions are almost always unnoticed by parents and occasionally by doctors, but between 25 percent to 40 percent of infant girls have some degree of adhesions. The tissue may cover part or all of the hymen (opening to the vagina) and the urethra (the opening to the bladder) and sometimes extend up to the clitoris.

Symptoms

This tissue usually breaks apart spontaneously before it is ever noticed or causes problems. Most of the time, adhesions do not cause any symptoms and naturally disappear with the hormonal changes of puberty. A physician will notice the condition during an infant's physical exam.

Treatment

The adhesions should not be forcefully separated because the area is very sensitive, and small tears in the tissue may be more likely to reattach themselves and become scarred. Thin adhesions may break apart on their own without special treatment.

If they do not, a pediatrician may prescribe hormonal creams, especially if the adhesions are thickened, recurrent, or causing symptoms. Because the estrogen in the cream is absorbed and will cause breast development and darkening of the labia skin when used for an extended time, the therapy is usually given for a short term and closely monitored.

Prevention

Once the tissues separate, daily baths, good hygiene, and lubrication of the tissues with a diaper ointment are recommended to prevent the tissues from sticking together again. Once the child is out of diapers, the problem should not recur.

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