Vaginal swelling can be uncomfortable. Possible causes of vaginal swelling can include pregnancy, cellulitis, bacterial vaginosis, sexually transmitted infections, allergies, or physical irritation.

People with vaginal swelling often assume they have a yeast infection, but this is just one of many possibilities. Allergies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), cysts, or rough intercourse can all cause vaginal swelling. Treatment depends on the cause.

Anyone who experiences vaginal swelling should look for signs of infection and consult a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.

Here are 14 possible causes of vaginal swelling and possible treatment options.

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1. Allergy

An allergic reaction may cause the vagina and vulva to swell. The vagina and vulva are sensitive parts of the body. They may react to any number of ingredients found in personal care products, such as:

  • soaps
  • lubricants
  • vaginal washes and douches
  • tampons and pads
  • vaginal contraceptives
  • body lotions and creams
  • latex condoms

Swelling may appear in response to a new product, but a product the body is familiar with can also cause an allergic reaction.

If a person suspects they are allergic to a particular product, it may be a good idea to stop using it and consult a dermatologist.

2. Irritation

Even if an allergy is not present, the body may react adversely when it comes into contact with specific products. Even the most popular and widely used chemical ingredients may cause vaginal and vulvar swelling.

Chemical fragrances are often to blame. They can be found in many products that come into contact with the vagina and vulva, including:

  • laundry detergent
  • perfumes
  • body washes
  • bath bombs and soaps
  • toilet paper

Some types of cloth may also cause vulvar irritation and swelling. Lace or polyester underwear, in particular, may irritate the skin.

Sometimes, the cut of underwear is responsible for the swelling. Thin thongs or G-strings may not cover the labia entirely, which may cause unnecessary friction in the area throughout the day, which can lead to swelling.

It is important to identify and avoid irritants. If a person stops using a specific product and the swelling decreases, they may have found the culprit.

Anyone unable to identify the cause of vaginal swelling should visit a doctor or dermatologist.

3. Rough intercourse

Sexual intercourse can cause the vagina to swell. If the vagina is not sufficiently lubricated, added friction may lead to discomfort or pain during sex and swelling of the vagina after sex.

Rough intercourse can also tear vaginal tissues, increasing the risk of infection.

If a person suspects rough intercourse has caused vaginal swelling, spending more time in foreplay or using a lubricant to reduce friction may help.

An over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) may help if the swelling is causing pain.

4. Gartner duct cysts

A duct that forms in fetuses when the urinary and sexual organs are developing usually disappears after birth. If part of this duct remains, it is known as a Gartner duct. The remaining tissue may attach to the vaginal wall and develop into a cyst.

Gartner duct cysts tend to be harmless but can become problematic when they grow. A Gartner duct cyst may become infected or cause pain and swelling in the vagina.

In some cases, the cyst appears as a growth on the outside of the vagina.

Surgery is often necessary to remove a troublesome Gartner duct cyst. Once the cyst is gone, symptoms should diminish.

5. Bartholin cysts

The Bartholin glands are on either side of the vaginal opening. They secrete moisture and help provide lubrication.

A cyst on one of these glands may go unnoticed until it becomes infected, at which point an abscess may form. Also, the skin around the vagina may become inflamed and painful. In some cases, there may be a burning sensation or bleeding.

If the cyst or abscess is small, it may drain on its own. A warm, shallow bath may help ease the pain. OTC medications can reduce pain and swelling.

In more severe cases, a doctor may recommend antibiotics, surgical drainage, or cyst removal.

6. Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the inner layers of the skin. It may cause the skin to become swollen, red, and tender. A person can develop cellulitis when bacteria enter a cut, such as one sustained when shaving the pubic area.

Cleaning a cut regularly may help combat infection. In some cases, a doctor may recommend antibiotics.

7. Bacterial vaginosis

An overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the vagina may lead to vaginosis. Symptoms may include swelling and a grayish discharge with a foul smell.

Many cases resolve on their own, but a doctor may recommend antibiotics to speed up recovery.

Cleaning the vaginal area regularly and avoiding potential irritants can help prevent bacterial vaginosis.

A person can also avoid products such as douches, which disrupt the bacterial balance in the vagina.

8. Yeast infection

An overgrowth of the Candida fungal species causes a yeast infection. It can cause vaginal swelling and other symptoms, such as:

  • burning
  • pain during sex and urination
  • redness
  • thick, chunky discharge
  • irritated skin

Antifungal medications treat yeast infections. Visiting a doctor for a diagnosis is recommended because other conditions have similar symptoms.

9. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and cervicitis

Some STIs can cause inflammation of the cervix, which is called cervicitis. Symptoms of cervicitis can include:

Some STIs that can cause vaginal swelling include:

  • Chlamydia: This STI can seriously damage the reproductive system. It may also lead to painful urination and unusual discharge.
  • Gonorrhea: Symptoms are often mild and easily confused with those of an infection in the urinary tract or bladder. Other symptoms include bleeding between periods and increased discharge.
  • Trichomoniasis: This develops from a parasite and may have no symptoms. When they do appear, symptoms can include itching, soreness, pain while urinating, and changes in discharge.

Anyone who suspects they have an STI should talk with a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

10. Genital herpes

The herpes simplex virus often causes clusters of tiny, painful blisters to appear in the vaginal area. The blisters can burst and become painful sores.

While some people with genital herpes have no symptoms, others find that swelling, pain, and body aches accompany these sores.

There is currently no cure for genital herpes, but prescription medication may shorten or prevent outbreaks.

11. Edema

The term “edema” describes a collection of water or fluid in the body. Lymph nodes or veins failing to drain usually causes edema in the vagina.

Conditions that enlarge the uterus or put pressure on the veins in the pelvis, such as uterine fibroids or pregnancy, can cause edema.

A doctor has to identify the cause of the edema to treat it. Gently massaging the area may help reduce swelling in some cases, but this should be done under the guidance of a doctor.

12. Pregnancy

Pregnancy may cause the vagina to swell.

As the fetus grows, it can place pressure on the pelvis and nearby muscles and blood vessels.

This pressure can cause inflammation and affect the return of blood and fluid from the lymphatic system. This may lead to swelling.

If a person suspects they are pregnant, they can take a pregnancy test.

Anyone experiencing uncomfortable vaginal swelling during pregnancy should consult a doctor about safe treatments.

13. Sexual assault

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Injury from rape or sexual assault may cause vaginal swelling and bleeding as well as pelvic pain.

Resources are available for people who have been sexually assaulted. Organizations like RAINN in the United States offer free, confidential support. The organization’s 24-hour hotline also connects callers with local services that can help. The number for the RAINN hotline is 800-656-HOPE (4673).

People who have experienced rape or sexual abuse can consider visiting a doctor to discuss options and receive any necessary treatment and support.

14. Foreign objects in the vagina

When the body tries to expel a foreign object lodged in the vagina, symptoms may include:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • itching
  • irritation
  • fever
  • foul discharge

Toys, tissue paper, and household objects are the most common vaginal foreign bodies found in children. In adults, tampons, condoms, menstrual cups, sex toys, and pessaries are the most common items lodged in the vagina.

In some cases, a doctor may need to remove a foreign object.

Regularly cleaning the vagina may prevent objects from becoming stuck in it.

Swelling of the vagina is usually not the result of a serious medical condition. Anyone uncertain of the cause should visit a doctor.

A person should seek a professional diagnosis if the following symptoms are present:

  • signs of infection, such as fever or chills
  • painful or unbearable symptoms
  • persistent symptoms

Anyone who suspects they have an STI should see a doctor as well.

To discover the cause of vaginal swelling, a doctor may perform a physical exam or order a blood test. Many medications are available to treat vaginal swelling. Most cases can be treated quickly and effectively.

The following are answers to commonly asked questions about vaginal swelling.

What does vaginitis look like?

Vaginitis can cause irritation, swelling, and white, gray, or foamy discharge. It can also cause a foul odor and pain during sex.

What does vulvar swelling look like?

A swollen vulva can make the vulva look enlarged and darker in color.

Vaginal swelling has many potential causes, including allergies, STIs, cysts, or rough intercourse.

Treatment depends on the cause of the swelling. A doctor can recommend the most appropriate treatment following a physical exam and a blood test.

A person should seek immediate medical attention if a fever and other symptoms accompany vaginal swelling.

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