12 Causes of Vaginal Bumps, According to Doctors
Any injury could cause the tissues to get trapped under the skin surface and resulting in cysts.
5 Possible Explanations for Vaginal Lumps and Bumps
There is no need to be ashamed if you feel the presence of vaginal bumps down there. It is perfectly normal, and anyone can get them. You must not let these bumps turn painful, itchy, or develop infections as they may be a result of some sexually transmitted infection, and turn complicated if not addressed promptly. Schedule an appointment with experienced and board-certified gynecologists at the Century Medical and Dental Center to learn the difference between harmless bumps and those that need a doctor. The specialists will examine your vaginal lumps thoroughly, determine what is causing them and come up with the best solutions to get rid of them.
The vaginal area is sensitive, and the presence of bumps or lumps is a cause for concern. These bumps could be nothing, or their appearance could be a sign of something serious.
Keeping a check on your genital areas is necessary so that you can identify anything that seems out of the ordinary. Unwelcome additions such as lumps, bumps, rashes, or anything in between must be checked by a doctor to identify what is causing them and how they can be treated.
Vaginal Lumps and Genital Health
Genital health is vital as these bumps appearing on or around the vaginal area could indicate early signs of a condition that needs medical attention, such as sexually transmitted infection. Spotting them as soon as they occur is the best as you can seek appropriate medical attention and get rid of them without wasting any time or suffering unnecessary pain.
Vaginal lumps and bumps are not always a sign of something serious or malignant. They could be regular pimples caused by clogged glands, some skin infection, or even wearing the same underwear for long.
Here are 5 possible explanations for the bumps near or on your labia. Getting them checked by your primary care doctor will help determine what they are and help you stay healthy.
Hair Removal Methods
Shaving, waxing, plucking, and other hair removal methods can increase your risk for vaginal lumps or small, round, sometimes painful, or itchy bumps as they trigger an infection in the hair follicles surrounding the vulva. Infected growth hair cysts make themselves prominent by rash-like razor burns or in some severe cases boils with pus. The skin around the bump may also become dark.
Doctors recommend changing razors regularly, shaving in the same direction of the hair, and applying ointments such as shaving cream to rinse the hair off the skin to prevent cutting yourself. Sometimes, switching hair removal methods also helps to keep away vaginal bumps.
Sometimes incorrect choice of hair removal methods or doing it wrong can also lead to ingrown pubic hair. It can lead to bumps that get filled with pus. You should not try to extract ingrown hair on your own as it could lead to infection. In most cases, it resolves on its own in a few days but if it turns painful, consult a doctor.
Vaginal cysts are pocket or pouch-like projections along the vaginal wall. There are different types of cysts found in the vagina. Some of them are full of pus, while others contain air or scar tissue.
Many cysts are large and painful, but they can also be small and often have no symptoms. Visit your primary care doctor to get your sac-like growths examined and to have them treated timely.
Types of vaginal cysts include:
- Bartholin’s Cysts – these are lumps on either one or both sides of the vaginal opening.
- Endometriosis Cysts – these are lumps of tissues that create tiny cysts inside the vagina
- Gartner’s Duct Cysts – these cysts generally appear during the pregnancy
- Vaginal Inclusion Cysts – they mostly result from some trauma or distress to the vaginal wall such as giving birth or going through some procedure.
Any injury could cause the tissues to get trapped under the skin surface and resulting in cysts.
You can develop pimples on your vulva just like you get acne on other parts of the body. It is not exactly the same as getting pimples on the face, but it is similar to that, and these breakouts can happen in your adulthood too, for any reason. Like acne pimples, vaginal pimples can be red, painful, and at times full of puss.
According to health experts, pimples on the vagina often result from folliculitis, as the skin infection can look like a sudden breakout when the hair follicles get clogged with oil and dead skin cells. It will look like a whitehead near your vagina or a lot like an ingrown hair that can develop into a fluid-filled blister.
Even though they will be uncomfortable, avoid squeezing the pimples and keep your hands away to avoid bacterial spread. Applying a warm compress and keeping the area clean can help to soothe the skin and keep away irritation till it heals.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Certain sexually transmitted infections can lead to itchy bumps on the outer vaginal lips. They include:
Herpes Simplex Viruses 1 and 2
A herpes outbreak for simplex viruses 1 and 2 can result in clusters of blister-like bumps and little pustules that are both itchy and painful. These bumps usually appear between 2 and 20 days of getting the infection, after which they may go dormant for weeks, months, or even years between breakouts. These bumps are like tiny pimples on a red base and can be very uncomfortable.
Genital warts are whitish or skin-colored bumps that appear around the vulva and anus. They are caused by either of the two types of the HPV Virus (6 and 11), the most common sexually transmitted infection. They can be irritating or itchy but do not usually hurt. They resemble a little piece of cauliflower, and you will have more than one. They can be flat instead of raised, and sometimes you may not even notice them.
Genital warts are pretty common and you can get them through the skin to skin contact such as vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who is already infected. These warts can go away on their own as your immune system can fight off the viruses causing these bumps, but it is better to see a doctor to get rid of them faster and avoid any complications.
Syphilis often appears as a painless chancre or around open sore on the genitals around the vulva or anus. Initially, it may be just one sore that is about the size of a dime or even smaller, but if it is not treated timely, it could lead to dangerous problems like brain damage, paralysis, and blindness.
It may appear in a very discrete spot inside the vagina or rectum which makes it hard to detect.
Molluscum contagiosum is a common but little-known STI. It is prevalent among young women, especially those in their twenties who are sexually active. It appears as multiple red bumps with a crater in the middle. They can be super tiny with sprinkles of tiny bumps all around the vulva or as large as the bottom of a pencil eraser.
Highly contagious, this infection can spread through sexual contact and affects adults whose immune system is weak. These bumps usually disappear within a year without treatment, but it is best to consult a doctor to have them removed safely before they turn harmful.
It is probably the least possible explanation for vaginal lumps as cancer of the vulva or vagina is rare and unusual.
Symptoms of precancerous and cancerous conditions may include:
- Flat or raised sores or bumps on the vulva
- Skin color that is lighter or darker than surrounding skin
- Thickened patches of skin
- Itching, burning, or pain
- Sores that do not heal within a few weeks
- Unusual bleeding or discharge
Cancer of the vulva is more common in older women and women who smoke. Also, if you are infected with HPV, your risk of cancer increases. Vaginal and vulvar cancers are diagnosed by taking samples of tissues from the suspicious bumps or lesions and having them tested in the laboratory.
Getting tested for sexually transmitted infections and diseases is necessary as it can save you from a lot of pain in the long run.
When to Visit Your Gynecologist?
Occasional bumps on the vagina are not uncommon. They are not usually painful, but if these lumps become too large, they can result in pain or bleeding or even cause an infection that requires medical attention.
If you develop vaginal bumps or lumps frequently, visit a gynecologist to ensure they will not result in severe infection or turn complicated in the long run. Long-term vaginal bumps or infections disturb your sexual health and also put your partner at risk. It is essential to keep an eye on your condition and get anything suspicious checked by an expert.
Consulting a gynecologist becomes necessary if your lumps begin to bleed, are accompanied by foul-smelling or unusual discharge, and turn painful.
Diagnosing and Treating Vaginal Lumps
Gynecologists diagnose the type and severity of the vaginal bumps by examining the outside of the vulva. They may take a swab from the growth and send it to the lab to test for harmful cells or viruses. They also recommend some imaging tests to check for the size and shape of the bump to make an accurate diagnosis.
Most of these vaginal lumps can be treated with prescription medication or creams and do not need surgical treatments. The gynecologists evaluate the bumps carefully to check if they require medication or any additional treatment to provide relief.
They will also provide tips to maintain vaginal hygiene, including taking a good soak in the lukewarm water to soothe pain, itching, or swelling.
Mostly, the lumps on the vagina are not a cause for alarm as they go away on their own or can be managed with medication and at-home care. If these lumps turn painful, get filled with pus, or begin to cause irritation and bleed, do not waste time in approaching a doctor to have them carefully examined.
Unusual symptoms like sores, smelling discharge, or raised bumps could be a sign of sexually transmitted infection must be treated timely to reduce the risk for complications. The top-rated gynecologists at the Century Medical and Dental Center help you understand what is causing these vaginal lumps and provide the best advice on keeping yourself protected from these unexpected developments.
SHARE THIS POST Page Updated on Dec 18, 2022 by Dr. Dvorkina (Primary Care Doctor) of Century Medical and Dental Center
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12 Causes of Vaginal Bumps, According to Doctors
Many can be normal lumps, but if they are itchy or painful, you need treatment ASAP.
By Alyssa Jung Updated: Feb 25, 2023
If you’ve ever morphed into a (panicked) Dr. Google, issues with your vagina probably tops your list of whys. After all, odd smells, rashes and irritation or mysterious bumps can be anxiety-inducing reasons to schedule an emergency gyno appointment — but that’s exactly what you should do if you notice something unusual happening “down there.”
“First and foremost, don’t try to be your own doctor! Please seek care and have someone take a look; avoiding care because of embarrassment can lead to worsening symptoms and more extensive treatment,” says Beri Ridgeway, M.D., chair of Obstetrics/Gynecology and Women’s Health Institute at Cleveland Clinic. “Trust me — we’ve seen it all — you can’t surprise us, and this is why we’re here.”
Still, we know you might still be tempted to do a little digging (while you wait for your appointment to arrive, of course), so here are some common reasons you may have a lump or bump on your vagina.
Vagina vs. vulva
There’s a difference between your vagina and vulva. The vulva refers to the outer parts of the genital area that you can see, such as the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris and the opening of the vagina. The vagina is actually the internal canal that leads to the reproductive organs. So, chances are, if you’re seeing something unusual, it’s on your vulva as opposed to your vagina. However, internal bumps and lumps are possible.
Are bumps normal?
Most of the time, the answer is yes. Because of how sensitive the vaginal area is, it’s common to have irritation or harmless pimples and cysts. The structure of your vagina wall may also feel bumpy or lumpy. However, when it comes to your vaginal health, it’s important not to ignore what you’re seeing, especially if it’s new or is accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, swelling or itchiness.
1. It’s a skin tag
Maybe you were doing some solo exploring and notice what feels like a lump. Straight to Google you go: what are normal bumps in vaginal walls? Before you spiral panic (and head to your laptop), know that there’s a chance it could simply a skin tag. “Sometimes you may see a skin tag vaginally that can be benign, like an extra piece of skin,” says Jennifer Makarov, M.D., OB-GYN and reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at New Hope Fertility. “A skin tag wouldn’t have any symptoms of itching or irritation.” If you are experiencing burning, pain or other irritation, it could signal another issue is at play, and it’s smart to call your doctor.
“It’s good to know what your anatomy is and what your vagina looks like—if you know there’s been a skin tag there your whole life, it’s not something that needs to be addressed unless it grows or becomes painful,” Dr. Makarov adds. “You can use a mirror to look at the area and become familiar with its appearance, in order to notice any changes,” such as bumps in the vaginal walls.
2. It’s an ingrown hair
This is one of the most common causes for bumps on the vaginal area. When a pubic hair grows back into the skin instead of popping up out of the surface, it can form a small bump that may look red. “Pubic hair that has been shaved can lead to ingrown hairs, which can lead to little bumps in that area that sometimes become inflamed like a pimple,” says Dr. Makarov. Though innocent enough, hair bumps can be itchy, tender when swollen and even filled with pus. Resist the urge to go from Dr. Google to Dr. Pimple Popper — it’ll eventually heal on its own, and popping it or playing with it can make it stick around even longer. Ingrown hairs are often caused by shaving or other hair removal methods, so if you notice them happening frequently, consider going au naturale for a bit.
3. It’s caused by irritation
“Very commonly, bumps can occur on the vulva from irritation. These can be associated with burning or itching, and the bumps themselves tend to be centered around the irritated hair follicles in question, and appear small, red and raised,” says Ambica Sastry, M.D., obstetrician-gynecologist in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at Mount Sinai West and Mount Sinai Morningside in New York City. You can also get bumps on the vaginal area (the outer part of your genital region), and everything from shaving to chafing or prolonged exposure to moisture from sweat or urine can trigger an uncomfy reaction. You may also be sensitive to topicals like lubricants, vaginal cleansers, soap and even laundry detergent.
4. You have a cyst
The internal area of the vagina is home to glands that make mucus, which helps keep things lubricated, but sometimes these glands can get clogged and cause a small cyst, or a pocket of tissue filled with fluid or air, explains Dr. Makarov. “A cyst can present in many different ways; they appear white or clear, they can be tiny or quite large, and they can be located in all areas of the vulva,” Dr. Ridgeway adds. Some women develop cysts after trauma to the vaginal walls (like childbirth or surgery). If a cyst doesn’t go away on its own, your doctor can drain or remove it.
5. Maybe it’s eczema
Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition often characterized by an itchy, patchy rash. But depending on the type of eczema you have, you may develop blister-like lesions or red and raised bumps on the vaginal area. Whether you have a history of eczema, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor if you notice new bumps around your vagina that you haven’t experienced before — they can help determine the best treatment approach.
6. It might be an infected sweat gland
The medical name for this is hidradenitis suppurativa, and appearance can vary from single isolated lesions to larger lesions with tracts that form below the skin surface, explains Dr. Sastry. These bumps tend to form where skin rubs against skin, such as the vaginal area, buttocks or armpits, and they may look like blackheads (yes, the type you get on your face), pea-sized lumps that are painful, fluid-filled bumps or a train of connected bumps. It may also start with just one bump, with more bumps forming over time.
7. It may be molluscum contagiosum
This is a skin infection that’s more commonly seen in children, but can also affect adults, particularly if you have a compromised immune system; it’s caused by a virus and is spread through close skin-to-skin contact with an infected individual, after coming in contact with an object an infected person has touched or after spending time in pools or hot tubs that have been contaminated by the virus. “Molluscum contagiosum often looks like small raised bumps with little dimples in the center,” Dr. Sastry says.
8. A cyst could be infected
If you notice a bump or bumps inside the vagina wall that is accompanied by pain, it could be an infected cyst. Bartholin cysts are a common type of fluid-filled cyst that form near the Bartholin gland at the vaginal opening, and it’s possible for them to become infected (the cyst may grow in size and become very painful if this happens).
9. It could be HPV
Certain strains of human papilloma virus (HPV) cause genital warts, which are typically flesh colored and raised and often aren’t accompanied by any other symptoms, says Dr. Ridgeway. These warts can grow anywhere on, in, or around the female genitalia, including the cervix. They may grow clustered together to form a cauliflower-like shape, and can itch.
10. Or herpes
Genital herpes is an extremely common sexually transmitted infection — one in six Americans have it. But unless you’re having a full-blown outbreak with sores or blisters (which is what you probably think of when you hear “herpes”), it can present with few symptoms other than a small bump you may mistake for a pimple or ingrown hair.
11. It may be a symptom of cancer
Before you panic, know that your bump is much more likely to be caused by something much less scary, but a bump can be a sign of some types of cancers. Vulvar cancer can produce lumps that are red, pink or white, and may feel rough or thick to the touch, as a symptom, and vaginal cancer, while rare, can also cause a lump. “It’s a very uncommon cause, but it’s very important to mention,” Dr. Markov says. The lumps may be itchy or sore, and it’s important to see your doctor immediately if you notice a changing or rapidly growing bump, especially if painful or itchy. “It can be scary, but even cancer is curable when diagnosed early,” says Dr. Ridgeway.
12. It could signal the presence of pre-cancerous cells
Depending on the type of cancer, clusters of abnormal cells may form, and they have the potential to undergo more changes and develop into the full-blown disease of cancer. These pre-cancerous cells may cause bumps or lumps that are a different skin pigmentation than the rest of your skin in that region, they may itch, and they may grow in size. Any time you notice something that doesn’t seem quite right or hasn’t always been there, talk to your doctor right away.
12. It’s possible it’s syphilis
Though not the most common type of sexually transmitted infection, people still get syphilis, and small bumps called gummas can develop as a complication of the disease. Earlier symptoms include a small painless sore and a body-wide rash.
When to see a doctor
Put your mind at ease ASAP when you notice a bump by paying your doctor a visit. He or she will know the best way to proceed for any of these (or other) diagnoses.
Alyssa is a senior editor for the Hearst Health Newsroom, where she has written research-backed health content for Prevention, Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Day since 2017. She has more than 13 years of reporting and editing experience and previously worked as research chief at Reader’s Digest, where she was responsible for the website’s health vertical as well as editing health content for the print magazine. She has also written for Chowhound, HealthiNation.com, Huffington Post and more.