Style/ Beauty

12 causes for a bump on your vaginal area, and what to do about it

By now, you’ve probably dealt with some kind of bump on your face. Or maybe even on your chest or back. But bumps near your vaginal area? That can understandably feel a little more confusing and unsettling. Before you get too freaked out, though, take a breath and know that many reasons for bumps on your vulva (the outside area of your genitals) or labia (the part of the vulva known as the lips) aren’t as sinister as you might assume.

“Women come into my office worried about genital bumps all the time, and many jump to the initial, horrible conclusion that they have cancer,” says Alyssa Dweck, M.D.1, a gynecologist at Northern Westchester Hospital in the US and coauthor of The Complete A to Z for Your V.

There are different kinds of bumps (think cysts, pimples, and even boils) you might come across in your general vaginal area, and there are several potential causes for them—with cancer being the least likely. Not sure what’s going on down there? Here are the most common reasons for a bump on your labia or other genital parts and when to see your doctor about it.

First, is it ever normal to get bumps on your vaginal area?

Every person’s vulva is different, so the texture and appearance of the entire area can vary from person to person, Christine Greves, M.D.2, an ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies in Orlando, tells SELF.

“Normal” is a tricky word, she explains, because your normal may look completely different compared to someone else’s normal. For example, if you’ve had a skin tag on your labia your whole life, that may be normal for you, but not for someone else. In general, Dr. Greves says that you should get any new, unusual, or persistent bumps near your vagina checked out by your ob-gyn, just to be safe.

What do bumps on the vaginal area look like?

The answer is the ever-frustrating “it depends,” because the appearance of these bumps really can vary. “There are so many different potential causes for bumps on your labia, and each one can look a little different,” Dr. Greves says.

She says vaginal bumps can look like an ulcer, a blister, a freckle, a wart, or even a series of little bumps like a rash. They can be skin-colored (depending on what that means for your specific skin tone), red, pink, or dark brown. Basically, if it’s a raised surface of some type, it could appear on your labia.

What causes bumps on the vaginal area?

There are various reasons you may be seeing bumps in your vaginal area. Experts say these are some of the biggies:

1. You have a Bartholin’s cyst.

This is one of the most common vagina-bump-related reasons Dr. Dweck sees in her office. “If you look at the opening of the vagina like it’s a clock [with the clitoris being 12:00], at 5:00 and 7:00 there are Bartholin’s glands, which secrete mucus that help lubricate the vagina,” says Dr. Dweck. Sometimes these glands become blocked or infected, leading to bumps that can get pretty big (Dr. Dweck has seen golf ball-size Bartholin’s cysts).

What’s inside of them differs. Sometimes they leak a clear, mucus-like liquid, other times they weep pus, and in some instances they’re not filled with fluid at all, says Dr. Dweck. These cysts can be painful, but if they’re small and not infected, you may not even notice them. That said, if a cyst gets bigger, you might feel it alongside the opening of your vagina (it’ll usually only be on one side), according to the Mayo Clinic3.

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2. Your hair removal method is causing rash-like bumps.

“Shaving, waxing, and whatnot can cause an infection in some of the small hair follicles around the vulva, which can create bumps and lumps,” Dr. Dweck says. This infection, known as folliculitis4, can make itself known with anything from a rash-like razor burn to a boil full of pus. These grooming-inflicted bumps usually go away on their own, as long as you take a break from shaving or waxing for up to 30 days. To clear the skin faster and soothe any tenderness, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends applying a warm compress to the area three to four times a day for about 15 minutes at a time.

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3. You’re dealing with ingrown hairs.

Shaving can also lead to ingrown hairs, which develop when shaved or tweezed hair is cut in a way that forces it to grow back into the skin5. Shaving creates sharp edges on your hair, so a curved hair follicle (like most pubic hairs) is ripe for poking in the wrong direction.

Your body actually perceives the hair as an invader, which leads to inflammation, pain, and a tiny bump as the hair continues to grow and coil inward. This bump usually looks like a firm, round, pus-filled, or blister-like lesion. If your vaginal bump is an ingrown hair, it’s probably on the labia majora (the outer lips that are typically covered with pubic hair) rather than the labia minora (the inner lips), Dr. Greves says.

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