6 Bumps on Vagina Causes
If you’ve ever morphed into a (panicked) Dr. Google, issues with your lady parts probably tops your list of whys. After all, odd smells, itchiness, 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, chair of Obstetrics/Gynecology & 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.
It’s an ingrown hair
This is one of the most common causes for bumps on the genital region. 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, says Dr. Ridgeway. 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.
You have a cyst
“A cyst can present in many different ways; they appear white in color or clear, they can be tiny or quite large, and they can be located in all areas of the vulva,” says Dr. Ridgeway. A cyst is a pocket of tissue that can be filled with fluid, air, or other material, and often form when a gland or duct becomes clogged — Bartholin cysts in particular form when glands on each side of the vaginal opening become obstructed, forming a fluid-filled lump that can be painful or grow large if it becomes infected. 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.
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.
You might have 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.
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 can be scary, but even cancer is curable when diagnosed early,” says Dr. Ridgeway.
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.
Bottom line: 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.