A boil is a pus-filled lump that develops due to a blocked hair follicle or oil gland. Vaginal boils develop outside the vagina, in an area known as the vulva.

Boils can occur in any area of the body, and vulvar area may affect the labia or groin. Some people refer to boils as abscesses.

This article explains what causes vaginal boils, home remedies for helping them heal, medical treatments, and how to prevent them.

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Boils occur when a hair follicle or oil gland in the skin becomes blocked. If this traps bacteria inside, it can lead to an infection, causing symptoms such as pain, swelling, and pus.

Most boils occur due to infections of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. This bacteria lives on the skin without causing problems in most people.

Boils can develop spontaneously in people who otherwise have no other underlying conditions. However, some risk factors could make boils more likely. These include:

  • Waxing: Hair removal that pulls out the whole hair can leave the root open. If bacteria get inside, this could lead to a boil.
  • Ingrown hairs: Similarly, methods of hair removal that result in ingrown hairs can allow boils to develop. This could include waxing, shaving, or other treatments.
  • Piercings: An infection of a genital piercing could lead to a boil.
  • Having oily skin: People with oilier skin may have a higher risk for boils, as the oil can block glands and hair follicles.
  • Batholin cysts: Another cause of vulvar boils is a Bartholin gland cyst. This type of cyst is the result of an infection of the Bartholin glands, which are under the skin near the vaginal opening.
  • Having other infections: People who have other infections, such as conjunctivitis, are more likely to get a boil.
  • Having a weakened immune system: Conditions that affect the immune system, such as diabetes or cancer, can make people more susceptible to various infections, including boils.

A range of home remedies can help boils to heal, such as:

Keeping the area clean and dry

While the boil is healing, it is important to keep the area clean. To do this, people can:

  1. Thoroughly wash the hands with soap and rinse clean.
  2. Use water to gently clean the vulva. A person can do this with their hands, a cotton pad, or a soft clean cloth.
  3. Pat the area dry and wash the hands again.

Dispose of any cotton pads or launder washcloths before using them again. If a person removes their pubic hair, wait until the boil heals before shaving or waxing the area.

Wearing soft, breathable underwear

Tight or synthetic underwear can rub against a boil and cause irritation. Synthetic fabrics are also not breathable, which may cause sweating. Sweat and heat can allow bacteria to grow.

It may be more comfortable to wear soft cotton underwear, and looser-fitting clothing until the boil heals.

Applying a warm compress

Run a soft washcloth or cotton pad under warm water and apply to the boil. This may encourage the boil to drain and soothe pain.

If the boil does drain, cover it with a clean, dry bandage. If it has not yet drained, a person can use a warm compress and apply it several times per day until it does.

However, it is essential not to reuse the same compress or to apply a lot of pressure. This could push the infection deeper into the skin.

Using a sitz bath

Sitz baths involve sitting in a shallow basin filled with lukewarm salt water. This may soothe pain and encourage boil drainage.

To run a sitz bath at home, people can put a clean basin in a bath, add warm water, and around 1 teaspoon of salt per liter of water.

Taking pain medication

If the boil is painful, a person can take an over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Just as some at-home treatments can be beneficial, there are others that can cause further damage. It is important not to:

  • attempt to squeeze, pick, or pop the boil
  • vigorously wash or scrub the area
  • use fragranced lotions, baby wipes, or soaps

Some claims about home remedies for boils that people find online may not have any evidence to prove they are safe or effective. Some may negatively affect the vulva’s pH level or healthy bacteria, which could raise the risk of future infections.

Individuals should follow guidance from a doctor or a trusted medical source.

A person should speak with a doctor if the boil does not respond to at-home treatments, is large, very painful, or does not get better in 2 weeks.

A person should also seek treatment if there are signs of a spreading infection, such as a streak leading away from the boil, or skin that is hot to the touch. If an individual develops a fever and feels generally unwell, they should seek medical advice promptly.

Doctors can treat boils by draining them. To do this, they use sterile instruments to make a small cut. They may then clean the wound and apply antibiotic ointment before dressing it.

Boils that are deeper in the skin or that show signs of a deeper, spreading infection may require treatment with oral or intravenous antibiotics. The type of antibiotic a doctor prescribes depends on the nature and severity of the person’s infection.

It may not always be possible to prevent boils, but people can help reduce the risk of getting one. This includes:

  • regularly washing the vulva gently with water
  • washing the hands before and after touching the genitals
  • changing underwear, pads, and tampons regularly
  • not sharing personal items, such as razors or towels, with others
  • cleaning scratches or cuts when they happen

If a person experiences chronic vaginal boils, talk with a doctor about further preventive options.

Boils often get better without any complications. They may drain on their own, or the body may reabsorb the pus over time.

Larger boils, or clusters of boils known as carbuncles, may require medical treatment to heal. Rarely, boils can result in a deeper skin infection known as cellulitis, but this is uncommon.

Vaginal boils, or vulvar boils, are lumps around the entrance to the vagina. They develop when bacteria enter a blocked hair follicle or oil gland, resulting in swelling, pain, and pus drainage.

Keeping the area clean and using warm compresses or sitz baths may help smaller boils heal on their own. For larger boils with more severe symptoms, a doctor may need to make an incision to help it drain.

Practicing personal hygiene and not sharing items such as razors may help to prevent vaginal boils. However, if they keep coming back, it is advisable to speak with a medical professional.