What to do about vaginal cysts, sores, and bumps
They can appear on the internal part of the vagina or the external area, known as the vulva, which includes the labia.
What are the causes?
The following are the most common causes of vaginal lumps:
1. Vaginal cysts
When cysts form on the vaginal wall, they can cause pain and discomfort.
The types of vaginal cyst include:
- Bartholin's cysts: These are lumps on one or both sides of the vaginal opening.
- Endometriosis cysts: Lumps of tissue form small cysts in the vagina.
- Gartner's duct cysts: These cysts typically only form during pregnancy.
- Vaginal inclusion cysts: These often result after trauma to the vaginal walls, such as after giving birth. Injury causes tissue to become trapped under the skin's surface, resulting in a cyst.
Some cysts may be large and painful, but most vaginal cysts are small and have no symptoms.
2. Vaginal polyps
Vaginal polyps are outgrowths of skin that doctors may also refer to as skin tags.
They usually do not require treatment unless they are painful or cause significant bleeding.
3. Vaginal warts
It is not usually possible to feel warts inside the vagina, but it is possible to notice growths just outside the vaginal opening. Vaginal warts typically feel like small, irregular growths. It may be possible to see the warts by holding a mirror under the vagina.
The sexually transmitted infection herpes can also cause genital blisters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sometimes, herpes lesions may resemble an ingrown hair or a pimple. Other times, they may have a sore or blister-like appearance.
4. Vaginal cancer
Rarely, vaginal cancer can cause lumps on the vagina. These lumps can grow due to the excess development of cancerous cells in the lining of the vagina's skin cells or the glandular cells located in the vagina.
Other symptoms of vaginal cancer include unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge. If cancer becomes advanced, symptoms may include constipation, pelvic pain, back pain, or leg swelling. However, these symptoms do not necessarily mean a person has cancer; they are much more likely to be caused by another condition, such as an infection.
When to see a doctor
A person should see a doctor if they notice any physical changes in the vaginal area.
Anyone that notices any changes in the vaginal area, such as lumps or bumps, should see a doctor.
It is especially important to see a doctor for lumps if they:
- are bleeding
- cause an unusual or foul-smelling discharge
- are painful
Most lumps on the vagina do not require invasive treatments. A doctor can evaluate vaginal bumps to determine if they need further treatment.
How are lumps on the vagina diagnosed?
To diagnose vaginal lumps or bumps, a doctor will likley examine the outside of the vagina as well as perform a physical examination.
A doctor may also take a swab from the lump and send it to a laboratory to test for the presence of any harmful cells.
To help with diagnosis, a doctor may request some imaging tests to see how large the lump or lumps may be. Imaging tests may include transvaginal ultrasound imaging or abdominal imaging.
What are the treatment options?
Treatments for vaginal lumps depend upon the underlying cause:
Using tampons may increase discomfort and disrupt healing.
If a vaginal cyst becomes infected, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics to reduce the effects of the infection.
A doctor may also recommend at-home treatments and lifestyle changes, such as:
- Having a sitz bath: A sitz bath involves sitting in a few inches of warm water. A person can either sit in shallow water in their bathtub or buy a special type of sitz bath that fits into the toilet bowl.
- Taking over-the-counter pain (OTC) relievers: These include medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
- Avoiding tight and non-breathable clothing: Wear underwear made with natural cotton fibers.
- Avoiding sex and tampons: When a person has a painful or infected vaginal cyst, inserting a tampon or having sex may worsen symptoms and disrupt healing.
Lumps caused by HPV
A doctor cannot cure the HPV infection, but they can remove the warts if they are causing symptoms. Treatment includes freezing or using laser surgery to remove the warts.
Doctors treat vaginal cancer in a variety of ways, depending on how far the cancer has progressed.
According to the American Cancer Society, if a person has pre-cancerous cells on their vagina, a doctor may recommend topical treatments to destroy the pre-cancerous cells or laser surgery to remove the pre-cancerous cells.
Invasive or more advanced vaginal cancers may require surgical removal.
Treatment may also include:
- radiation therapy
- medications to keep cancerous cells from spreading
- A doctor can also recommend individual treatments based on the underlying cause of lumps on the vagina.
Lumps on the vagina can be a normal occurrence.
Vaginal lumps are not usually painful. However, when lumps on the vagina grow too large, cause bleeding or pain, or result in infection, they might require treatment.
Anyone who develops vaginal lumps or experiences any other symptoms should see a doctor.