All you need to know about vaginal boils
While boils can occur in any area of the body, they are commonly found outside the vagina, on the labia, or in the pubic area.
Some people may use the term boil and abscess interchangeably to describe a vaginal boil. However, abscesses are usually deeper skin infections than boils.
Some skin conditions can be similar to a vaginal boil. While most will heal on their own, others may require medical attention to avoid a worsening infection.
- They often begin as a skin irritation that becomes infected with bacteria that naturally live on the skin.
- If the boil is filled with pus and appears severely infected, a doctor may drain the boil using a special sterile needle.
- When a person develops a vaginal boil or boils, they can try several home remedies to help the boil resolve.
What are the causes?
Vaginal boils may be caused by many different conditions.
There are a variety of conditions and factors that can cause vaginal boils.
Boils can be caused by bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Chlamydia trachomatis.
One skin condition that can cause vaginal boils is folliculitis, which occurs when bacteria infect a hair follicle.
This infection is often a side effect of irritation caused by shaving or waxing hair from the pubic area. A bump may be painful and start small but can grow larger and into a boil.
Another common cause of a vaginal boil is a Bartholin gland cyst. This type of cyst is caused by an infection of the Bartholin glands, which are located under the skin near the vaginal opening. These glands can become blocked, causing a cyst or round, hard bump to form. If the cyst becomes infected, it can cause a boil to form.
Sexually transmitted infections
Sexually transmitted infections and genital piercings can also be underlying causes of vaginal boils.
Women with oily skin or those with thicker pubic hair growth are more at risk for vaginal abscesses, according to The Royal Women's Hospital.
There are a range of home remedies that a woman can try. These include:
Applying warm (not hot) compression
Run a soft washcloth under warm water and apply the warm compress to the vaginal boil for 10 to 15 minutes. This may cause the boil to leak some pus. A person should not squeeze the boil.
Using a sitz bath
A sitz bath can be purchased online or at most drugstores as a plastic ring that can be filled with warm water and placed over a toilet bowl. Another option is to sit in a shallow bath filled with lukewarm water.
Keeping the area clean and dry
Wash the boil with antibacterial soap, clean the soap off using clean water from a spray bottle, and dry the affected area gently with a soft washcloth. Avoid rubbing or touching the boil. Always wash the hands with soap and water before cleansing or applying any topical antibiotic ointments to the area.
Wearing breathable underwear
Clean, cotton underwear can allow the skin to "breathe." Women should avoid wearing tight underwear that can rub against the boil and inflame it.
Taking over-the-counter pain relievers
If the boil is mildly painful, a woman can take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If these medications do not control the pain, the woman should see her doctor.
Home treatments to avoid
Just as some at-home treatments can be beneficial, there are others that can be irritating or cause further damage.
A woman should never attempt to prick or squeeze a vaginal boil on her own. If the area is draining, she should cover it with a clean, dry bandage.
She should also avoid using any lotions, baby wipes, or ointments that are highly fragranced.
When to see a doctor
If the boil fails to respond to at-home treatments or over-the-counter medications or seems to be getting worse instead of better, a woman should seek medical attention.
A woman should also seek treatment if she observes any signs of infection, such as blood-streaked pus or the boil or surrounding skin is hot to the touch. The woman must also see her doctor if she develops any signs of a systemic infection, such as fever.
Draining the boil is effective for the most severe boils. A doctor may apply an antibiotic ointment and apply a sterile bandage to allow the boil time to heal.
Boils that are deeper in the skin or show signs of cellulitis, a bacterial infection affecting the inner layers of the skin and the fat layer, may require treatment with oral or intravenous (IV) antibiotics. The type of antibiotic prescribed depends on the nature and severity of the person's infection.
Can they be prevented
Maintaining a healthy weight is recommended to help prevent vaginal boils.
Changing underwear frequently and practicing excellent hygiene can help to prevent vaginal boils.
Keep the area clean by washing the body and vaginal area at least once a day with antibacterial soap.
Regular hand-washing can also help to reduce bacterial exposure.
However, practicing careful hygiene does not guarantee that a woman will not develop a vaginal boil.
Other preventive tips include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight can prevent additional skin folds developing, which can increase the risk of infection.
- Refraining from sharing personal items including towels and underwear can reduce the risk of infection.
- Changing into clean underwear after exercising can help prevent infection.
- Avoiding highly fragranced soaps, dyes, douches, and powders because these can irritate the tissues in the vaginal area and increase the risk of infection.
If a woman experiences chronic vaginal boils, she should talk to her doctor about further preventive options. For example, a doctor may prescribe birth control pills to reduce the amount of oil-producing hormones that can contribute to infections.
Ideally, a boil will shrink in size over the course of a week. If a women's vaginal boil does not improve with at-home treatments, she should seek medical attention to keep the infection from spreading more deeply.