Normal anatomy / histology

Author: Monika Roychowdhury, M.D. (see Authors page)

Revised: 3 October 2017, last major update February 2013

Copyright: (c) 2002-2017,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Vulva anatomy [title]

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Cite this page: Roychowdhury, M. Normal anatomy / histology. website. Accessed January 21st, 2019.
Definition / general
  • Vulva:
    • Immediately external to vagina
    • Composed of: mons pubis, clitoris, labia minora, labia majora, vulvar vestibule, vestibulovaginal bulbs, urethral meatus, hymen, Bartholin and Skene glands and ducts, vaginal introitus

  • Bartholin glands:
    • Corresponds to bulbourethral glands in male

  • Clitoris:
    • Erectile tissue similar to corpora cavernosa of penis
    • Lymphatics drain to deep inguinal nodes

  • Hymen:
    • Nonkeratinized stratified squamous epithelium

  • Labia majora:
    • Form the lateral boundaries of the vulva
    • Composed of folds of adipose and fibrous tissue
    • Fuse anteriorly into mons pubis
    • Posteriorly terminate 3 - 4 cm anterior to anus where they are united by posterior commissure or fourchette
    • Histologically, skin contains outer lining of stratified squamous epithelium, consisting of basal layer of cells (stratum malpighii), thin granular layer and horny layer
    • Composed of keratinized stratified squamous epithelium with hair follicles and eccrine, apocrine and sebaceous glands

  • Labia minora:
    • Consist of two folds of connective tissue which contain little or no adipose tissue
    • Anteriorly, labia minora divide into two parts
    • One part passes over clitoris to form prepuce
    • Other joins beneath clitoris and forms frenulum
    • Posteriorly, they blend with medial surfaces of labia majora
    • Skin and mucosa of labia minora are rich in sebaceous glands
    • Deeper area contains dense connective tissue
    • Composed of nonkeratinized stratified squamous epithelium, usually no adnexae

  • Vestibule:
    • Area between the hymen and Hart line
    • Lined by nonkeratinized squamous epithelium
    • Structures found in vestibule include: major vestibular (Bartholin) glands, minor vestibular glands, periurethral (Skene) glands, urethra

  • Minor vestibular gland:
    • Correspond to penile glands of Littre
    • Concentrically located within the vestibule
    • Shallow glands (extending no deeper than 3 mm into the underlying dermis) lined by single layer of mucin secreting columnar cells that merge with stratified squamous epithelium of vestibule
    • Open directly onto the surface

  • Glands:
    • Apocrine glands (scent glands):
      • Develop secretory function at adrenarche
      • Identical to those of axillae, breast and perianal regions
      • Height of secretory cells varies
      • Lumina of glands are large compared to lumina of eccrine glands
    • Eccrine glands (sweat glands):
      • Primarily involved in heat regulation
      • Function before puberty
      • Lined by layer of epithelial cells that contain eosinophilic cytoplasm
    • Sebaceous glands:
      • Alveolar, holocrine glands which do not contain lumina
      • Each gland composed of several lobules
      • Cells in each lobule form delicate network filled with fat
    • Skene glands:
      • Periurethral glands analogous to prostate
      • Mucus secreting columnar epithelium merges with duct urothelium, then stratified squamous epithelium of vestibule

  • Vulvar lymphatics:
    • Drainage for all but clitoris is to superficial inguinal nodes
Diagrams / tables

Images hosted on other servers:

Regional anatomy

Hart line

Clinical images

Images hosted on other servers:

Labia majora


Microscopic (histologic) images

Images hosted on other servers:

Bartholin gland

Sebaceous glands - hyperplasia

Vestibule - nonkeratinized squamous epithelium

Vestibule - minor vestibular glands