A common concern of women are bumps that they discover on the vulva. Before you panic, know that there are a several causes of bumps or pimples on the female genitalia and most of them are NOT contagious, NOT life threatening, and NOT STDs.
Here’s what you need to know:
Cysts are common and can occur anywhere on the body. In the vulva (the area near the vagina) they often arise from a blocked skin gland. They often look like pimples or lumps under the skin. If fairly large or uncomfortable, it can be incised and drained by a doctor. Squeezing them on your own is NOT a good idea as it can cause the introduction of bacteria and cause infection. A few common genital cysts in women include:
Skene’s duct cysts. These occur on either side of the urethra (where you urinate). You can self treat these with warm compresses, or if large, it can be opened up by your doctor.
Bartholin cysts occur on either side of the lower part of the labia majora, the outside of the vagina. They can become very large, like the side of a walnut and are usually noticed because of rapid growth in size and pain. Treatment includes warm sitz baths and incision and drainage if needed.
Blocked hair follicles, or folliculitis is probably the most common “bump” seen in the genitalia of men and women. The bumps are often irritated and tender. They are infected and may require antibiotics and a large incision and drainage to treat.
Clogged sweat glands can occur anywhere, including the genitalia. These sweat glands can be infected. Hidradenitis suppurativa is a condition causes painful clogged sweat glands anywhere on the body that are infected. They leave hard scars. Usually antibiotics and other medications are needed to treat. Fox Fordyce is a condition that causes nontender clogged sweat glands. Treatment includes steroid creams and other more specialized modalities.
Genital herpes is an STD. It usually causes itchy, burning and painful lesions that often start as a sore spot resembling a bug bite, but progresses over a few days to a blister or group of blisters and then an open ulcer. Treatment includes antiviral medications and pain meds.
Infection with subtypes 6 or 11 of the human papilloma virus (HPV) can cause genital warts. It too is a sexually transmitted disease. These “bumps” have a cauliflower like appearance. They are rough to the touch and can spread. Treatment includes applications of medications to freeze off the lesions or improve the immune system to fight the virus.
Molluscum contagiosum. This viral infection causes small, fleshy bumps on the vulva with a central indentation. They have a pearly color to them. They usually go away without treatment.
Skin tags are fleshy irregular shaped growths of normal skin that can occur on the vulva or elsewhere on the body.
And, there are a multitude of other causes of female genital bumps. While most are minor and require little or limited treatment, others are STDs. Therefore, if you discover a “bump”, be sure to get it checked out by your doctor