Causes and Cures for Red and Itchy Vaginal Bumps
Vaginal Bumps That Itch: Is it an STD?
There are many causes for itchy bumps on the vagina (or, to be exact, on the vulva, mons pubis, labia, or external parts of the vagina). The first thing a woman thinks of is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Although this is an understandable fear, quite often there is another explanation for these symptoms.
Since many vaginal bumps have the same symptoms as STDs, it is often challenging to determine the culprit. Women should see their gynecologist for an accurate diagnosis of these bumps. However, if the vaginal bumps are not sexually transmitted, some simple over the counter remedies will cure or alleviate many cases.
Note: This article is about vaginal bumps that itch. Although there are many other reasons one might develop bumps on the vagina, we're narrowing our focus on the causes of those that itch - starting with the least alarming bumps, followed by those that are caused by an STD.
Common Itchy Vaginal Bumps (Least Alarming)
Harsh body products, sweat or oil secretions, and wearing tight or synthetic underwear.
Similar to pimples on other areas of the body.
Clean area with only warm water (no soap). Wear breathable clothing of natural materials. Don't try to pop it!
Ingrown Pubic Hair
Shaving, certain body products and excessive sweat.
Looks like a pimple; sometimes the hair inside is visible or it's filled with pus.
Regular exfoliating, shaving with a sharp razor or finding another hair removal method. Letting hair grow out.
Sweat or friction from clothing blocks a hair follicle; can become infected.
Begins as small red bumps or whiteheads and develops into infected, crusty sores.
Usually heals on its own after approximately two weeks. Salt water compresses may help.
Redness, itchiness, red bumps, weeping, oozing and crusting.
No cure; symptoms can be treated with home moisturizing regimen or prescribed corticosteroids.
Are Daily Habits Causing Vaginal Acne?
Acne is most often the cause of bumps that are red and itchy on and around the vagina. Vaginal pimples are like face pimples or those found elsewhere on the body. Vaginal acne is skin's natural reaction to harsh soap, douches, shaving, or not showering enough. In the teen and early adult years, this area may have excessive secretions—sweat or oil—which may clog the pores and lead to pimples. Wearing tight underwear made of synthetic or non-absorbent material can trap this moisture and cause acne, as well.
You can treat vaginal acne by cleaning the area with warm water (without soap) several times daily. Keep the area clean and dry and wear cotton underwear. Don't try to pop or squeeze the pimple, because this will just cause irritation and possibly lead to infection. A warm compress might help.
Extreme conditions of vaginal acne may require medical attention for treatment with cortisone injections or other means.
Maybe It's an Ingrown Hair?
It looks like a pimple (a red bump on the skin, varying in size, sometimes with pus inside), it feels like a pimple (painful and itchy), but it isn't a pimple, it's an ingrown hair.
Ingrown hairs are those that have somehow curled and grown sideways or back down into your skin instead of exiting. One common type of ingrown hair is called pseudofolliculitis, also known as razor bumps, a group of small bumps that appear after you've shaved, waxed, or tweezed. Because the hair is cut so short, it gets turned around and trapped under the surface of your skin.
This may happen more often to people with thick or curly hair. Also, it can happen if something clogs the pores and prevents the hair from growing out—for example, dead skin can clog a hair follicle, as can excessive sweat or certain products.
Usually, this bump will eventually heal itself. If you're prone to ingrown hairs, exfoliating (gently scrubbing away dead skin), using a sharp razor when shaving, shaving in the direction the hair is growing, switching to another method of hair removal, or letting the hair grow can all help.
If it doesn't heal itself, an ingrown hair may become infected. It may darken the skin or leave a scar, especially if you've been picking or scratching. If this happens, your doctor can make a small incision to get it out. Your doctor may also prescribe something to help.
Could It Be Folliculitis?
Folliculitis is an extremely common skin condition, one of the most common forms of bumps found in the genital area, caused by hair follicles that have become inflamed, often leading to a bacterial or fungal infection. It begins as small red bumps or whiteheads and develops into infected, crusty sores.
Folliculitis is caused by sweat or friction from clothing that blocks a hair follicle on or around the vagina. The resulting bumps may become infected.
Folliculitis usually heals on its own in approximately two weeks. If it is a small, singular bump, it can be treated by placing a warm compress on the area three times a day. A saltwater solution may offer relief. If there are multiple bumps, if they recur, or if a bump doesn't heal, a trip to the doctor for an incision, drainage, and antibiotic or anti-fungal may be required.
Could It Be Eczema?
Another common cause of itchy, red vaginal bumps is vulvar eczema. Eczema is the general medical term for inflamed skin (epidermis) that is red and itchy, and has minute papules and vesicles that are weepy, ooze and crusty. Unfortunately, this very painful and itchy condition is recurrent and lasts a lifetime.
Although we don't know what exactly causes it, a combination of heredity and environmental factors is thought to be responsible. There are several known triggers for ulvar eczema however, including:
- Excessive discharge
- Menstrual pads or panty liners
- Laundry detergent
- Perfumes and deodorants
There is no cure, but it can be treated. Your gynecologist may prescribe external topical corticosteroids; however, they do have some extreme side effects. Discomfort can alternatively be alleviated with a variety of home remedies including using a cool compress or soaking in baths, followed by a moisturizing lotion regimen.
Use a cream with natural ingredients and no added perfume or fragrance. Aloe vera might be applied two or three times a day, but you'll want to watch to see how your skin responds. Adjusting eating habits along with stress reduction are also helpful in minimizing recurrence. Yogurt and acidophilus capsules have also been used to varying degrees of success.
Be careful not to scratch eczema bumps or the itchiness will intensify and the eczema will spread. These remedies may sound simple enough, but eczema is a tough culprit to clear up. It is essential to follow treatment advice on a daily basis.
Sexually Transmitted Vaginal Bumps
Virus spread through skin-to-skin contact. Does not need to be sexual.
Smooth, shiny bumps with central indentation; varying sizes and colors. Filled with waxy substance, often itchy and sore.
Usually goes away on their own, but could take months.
Virus spread through skin-to-skin contact.
Itchy, burning and tingling blisters that break open then turn into sores.
No cure; symptoms can be managed, anti-virals reduce occurrence of outbreaks.
Genital Warts (HPV)
Virus spread through sexual contact.
Skin-colored, itchy bumps that are rough to the touch. Cauliflower-like appearance.
No cure; warts usually go away on their own (takes up to 2-years).
Maybe It's a Viral Infection (Molluscum Contagiosum)?
Molluscum contagiosum is a virus that spreads through close skin-to-skin contact, including but not limited to sexual contact. In the vaginal area, this virus appears in the form of smooth and shiny round bumps of varying size, with a central indentation. They are firm to the touch and filled with a waxy substance. The bumps appear in varied colors ranging from white, pink, red, and other flesh tones and are often itchy, swollen, and sore.
Any activity that involves touching an infected person's bumps, touching the hand that scratched those bumps, or even contact with an infected towel or piece of clothing may expose you to the virus.
They usually disappear on their own, but it may take months. However, if you are sexually active or worried about exposing someone else, treatment will shorten the healing time. Your doctor may treat them with dry ice, topical cream, or laser removal.
Is It Genital (Vaginal) Herpes?
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted virus (herpes simplex virus, or HSV) with no cure. Herpes lays dormant for periods of time, and it may reappear without warning under certain conditions, including menstruation, stress, and illness.
When symptoms are present, they may include itching, burning, or tingling sensations and painful blisters that turn into sores. Some people experience fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes.
You can contract vaginal herpes when your skin touches the skin of an infected partner during intercourse.
As stated, there is no cure for herpes. After a positive diagnosis, a physician may prescribe a daily oral medication to prevent outbreaks. Another option that is available is the medication Acyclovir, which can be purchased over-the-counter without a prescription. This medication does not prevent herpes outbreaks, but it increases healing time and decreases symptoms once sores are present.
75%-80% of Americans carry at least one Herpes Simplex Virus (Type 1 or 2).
Could It Be Genital Warts (HPV)?
Another common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes genital warts, which are not always visible to the eye but if they are, might be skin-colored, itchy bumps that have the appearance of cauliflower, and are rough to the touch.
You will most often find these bumps on more than one place of the vagina. After exposure to the virus, it takes six weeks to six months (and sometimes longer) for the bumps to develop, so there is likely a period of time when the infected individual has no clue they have been exposed. Some rarer strains of the virus are especially dangerous because they can cause cancer of the cervix and vulva.
Genital warts are spread by skin-to-skin contact during sex. Because of the long incubation period, there is a chance HPV can be spread even when no warts are visible.
While there is no cure for HPV, the infection sometimes clears on its own. Testing positive for HPV doesn't mean you need treatment: your doctor may opt instead for close monitoring, especially if it's a rarer strain of HPV that can lead to cancer. Very often, our bodies fight off the virus. If so, the warts go away without treatment—for most women, the infection clears up within two years.
There are treatments to help with the symptoms and possibly help lower the chance of passing the infection to a partner. These therapies might reduce, but don't ensure against infection. Warts may be removed by various means: However, even after removal, the virus may cause future outbreaks.
What Are the Guidelines for Seeking Medical Care?
Many of the causes described above do not require medical attention or a prescription. However, it's important for you to ascertain the exact cause of your bumps, and there's no way to be sure without getting the proper tests.
Your gynecologist is the only one who can determine the cause of those itchy bumps near your vagina.
If you suspect a sexually transmitted disease or infection is the culprit, you'll need medical care as soon as possible. If you have vaginal bumps that you believe are not sexually transmitted, and they last longer than three days, you'll still need to have them examined by a physician.
What To Do About Bumps "Down There"
Vaginal Bump and STD Savvy Quizview quiz statistics
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
I have six ulcer-like bumps on one side of my outer labia. They are oval shaped, and have a white center, with red around the outside. For the past three months, I have only been sexually active with my husband. Can you please help me figure out what this could be?
Your symptoms indicate that the bumps are likely caused by molluscum contagiosum. This is contracted by touching anything that has the virus on it, including people and surfaces. The bumps will eventually vanish on their own, but not for several months. Over the counter (OTC) remedies are available to quickly eliminate the bumps. The most effective treatments are listed below.
Naturasil - a powerful homeopathic formula that gently clears Molluscum bumps (papules) while relieving itching and discomfort, without the pain of surgery.
SkinSmart - Excellent for minor skin conditions like rashes and molluscum contagiosum.Helpful 49
I have a painful white bump on my (swollen) clitoral hood, and two more on the inside of my vulva. I also have a yeast infection. Can the sores be due to the yeast infection, or could this be herpes? Also, if it is from the yeast infection, will clotrimazole work?
Yeast infections can cause many secondary symptoms, including various types of vaginal bumps. The use of clotrimazole cream will eliminate both the yeast infection and the bumps, if the infection is indeed the cause.Helpful 40
I have a cluster of flesh colored bumps on one side of my clitoris. They are soft, skin colored, and never bleed or get hard and crusty. I have been married for 20 years. What could this be?
I suspect that this bump cluster is genital warts, a form of HPV. Genital warts are often found in clusters. They are soft to the touch, flesh colored and itchy. This STD can lay dormant for many years before appearing. Please see a physician for an official diagnosis and treatment at your earliest convenience.Helpful 24
I accidentally popped an ingrown hair cyst located near my labia. Pus came out when it popped, and a tiny blood blister remains. Is this dangerous?
Since there are no signs of current infection, you are not in any danger.Helpful 22
I have small hive-like bumps that are extremely itchy around my vulva and anus. The area is dry with white flakes. What could this be?
I am suspicious that you may be experiencing "lichen sclerosus", a long-term skin condition that mainly effects both the genital and anal regions. Onset typically starts with small, smooth spots that are very itchy. Theses spots grow into larger white plaques that are thin and flakey. They can sometimes blister and bleed, and even become quite painful.
Lichen sclerosus is not a contagious condition. It can not be given or transferred to another person by either touch nor sexual intercourse. Its cause is not exactly known; however, the immune system, hormones, heredity and/or injury are thought to play a role. There are creams and ointments available to relieve the symptoms and shorten healing time; unfortunately however, there is no cure (yet) for this recurrent condition.
I have included links that contain additional information below; however, please refer to either your family practice physician or gynecologist to confirm or exclude this diagnoses.
I wish you all the best, and hope you find resolve quickly.
© 2013 Rachael Ryhn