The labia — or vaginal lips — protect the clitoris, vagina, and urethra from infection and damage. Various conditions can cause swollen labia, including infections and cysts.

There are two pairs of labia. The labia majora are on the outside of the vagina, and the labia minora are the inner folds of skin that lead to the vagina.

Read on to learn more about swollen labia and how to prevent or treat this issue.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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In addition to swelling, the following symptoms may suggest an infection or another underlying medical problem with the labia:

Common causes of swollen labia include the following:

Yeast infections

According to research, almost 75% of females will experience a yeast infection at least once in their lives.

Symptoms include:

  • burning
  • itching
  • pain
  • swelling of the labia
  • a white discharge that may be thick and lumpy

Factors that increase the risk of a yeast infection include:

Learn more about yeast infections.

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is common in females ages 15–44. It occurs due to an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina.

Symptoms include swollen labia, a green or gray discharge, and a fish-like odor. However, many people with a bacterial imbalance may not experience any symptoms.

Factors that increase the risk of BV include:

Learn more about bacterial vaginosis.


This sexually transmitted infection (STI) frequently appears without symptoms. If symptoms are present, they may include:

  • irritation and itching of the vulva
  • painful urination
  • swollen labia
  • vaginal odor
  • yellow-green discharge

Having a history of STIs or multiple sexual partners increases the risk of getting trichomoniasis.

Allergies or irritation

If no infection is present, swelling of the labia may be due to contact with an irritating product or allergen.

Substances that may trigger swelling include:

  • chemicals in fabrics
  • fragrances in detergents and soaps
  • latex in condoms
  • spermicides

A Bartholin’s cyst

The Bartholin’s glands are located on either side of the vaginal opening. They can become blocked and cause swelling in and around the vagina.

While this swelling does not usually cause other symptoms, it may lead to an infection and cause pain and a buildup of pus.

A Bartholin’s cyst is a firm, noncancerous lump. These cysts usually occur in people in their 20s and become less common with age.

A doctor may need to perform a biopsy to rule out a malignancy if this type of cyst occurs when a person is older.

Sexual intercourse

Sexual intercourse without adequate lubrication — either from the vagina or a lubricating product — can cause friction.

This friction can damage the vaginal area and labia, leading to swelling and discomfort.

Healthcare professionals may use one or more of the following to diagnose the cause of swollen labia:

  • a medical and sexual history
  • a complete list of symptoms
  • a physical examination
  • a vaginal or vulvar swab
  • a tissue sample
  • urine analysis

Further tests may be necessary depending on the individual’s symptoms and initial test results.

It is best for people with swollen labia to contact a healthcare professional if the swelling worsens over time or is accompanied by any of the following:

  • itching
  • a lump or bump on the labia
  • pain that persists or is severe
  • a strong smell from the vagina
  • unusual vaginal discharge

The treatment for swollen labia will depend on the underlying cause. Options include:

Medication and surgical intervention

Steroid creams may be beneficial for those with swelling from allergies or sexual intercourse.

People with a yeast infection may need to take an over-the-counter or prescription antifungal medication, which they may apply topically or take orally.

Doctors can treat swelling from bacterial infections such as vaginosis or trichomoniasis with antibiotics.

Bartholin’s cysts do not always require treatment. However, some will require antibiotics, surgical drainage, or surgical removal.

Home remedies

Home remedies for swollen labia include:

  • Cool compresses: Applying a cool compress to the labia can reduce swelling. People can buy these online and use them several times a day.
  • Sitz baths: A person may treat a Bartholin’s cyst at home using sitz baths. This involves sitting in a bathtub filled with a few inches of warm water. Taking a sitz bath several times a day for up to 4 days can encourage a small cyst to drain.
  • Probiotics: Some research suggests probiotic supplements may treat or prevent vaginal infections. Regularly consuming probiotic-rich foods, such as natural yogurt and kefir, may also be beneficial.
  • Reducing sugar intake: High sugar diets may play a role in some recurrent yeast infections. It may be helpful to avoid sugar, processed foods, and fruit juices when experiencing a yeast infection.
  • Removing allergens and irritants: Swelling due to exposure to particular substances may subside once people remove the allergen or irritant. These products can include soaps, detergents, clothing, and contraceptives.

A person can take several steps to prevent swelling of the labia, including:

  • practicing good hygiene
  • using pads instead of tampons
  • not douching
  • wearing loose clothing
  • wearing cotton underwear
  • avoiding perfumed products
  • only using antibiotics when necessary
  • taking probiotics
  • using barrier contraception
  • using lubrication during sexual activity
  • wiping from front to back after using the bathroom

For most people, swollen labia do not indicate a serious condition. However, it is best for anyone experiencing swelling that persists or is accompanied by other symptoms to contact a healthcare professional.

There are many treatments for swollen labia, depending on the underlying cause. Several home remedies can also effectively manage or alleviate symptoms of certain conditions.

To prevent swollen labia and other genital problems, it is important to practice good hygiene, use contraception, and avoid irritating products and clothing.