Some people have small bumps on their vulva and around the labia. These bumps are called vestibular papillomatosis, and they are not harmful.
Vestibular papillomatosis is not a disease. It requires no medical treatment and is not contagious.
In this article, learn more about vestibular papillomatosis, including its appearance and how doctors diagnose it.
Vestibular papillomatosis refers to small, painless, skin-colored bumps, or papules, that develop on the vulva.
The vulva is the part of the female genitalia that sits on the outside of the body. The bumps might be round or oblong.
In the past, doctors thought that these bumps had a link with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, but research has since discredited this theory.
Experts now know that vestibular papillomatosis is a natural anatomical variant, meaning that it is simply how some vulvas look. It is neither dangerous, nor is it a sexually transmitted infection.
In fact, studies have shown that vestibular papillomatosis is present on between 1% and 33% of female genitals.
Vestibular papillomatosis is not a disease but a variation in how the vulva can look. Researchers do not know why it occurs in some people and not in others.
It is not harmful, and many people may not even know that they have vestibular papillomatosis.
Vestibular papillomatosis looks like small, smooth, skin-colored bumps on the vulva. These bumps are soft, and they do not tend to be painful or tender.
The bumps might be round and wart-like, or they can be longer. They usually measure 1–2 millimeters in diameter. People with vestibular papillomatosis do not typically experience any other symptoms.
Due to the way it looks, doctors sometimes misdiagnose vestibular papillomatosis as genital warts.
However, there are clear differences between vestibular papillomatosis and genital warts. For example, the individual base of each vestibular papillomatosis papule is separate, whereas warts tend to join together at the bottom.
In females, genital warts can develop on the vulva, cervix, or anus. Vestibular papillomatosis usually remains confined to the vulva, inner labia minora, and vaginal introitus, which is the vaginal opening.
About 360,000 people get genital warts in the United States every year. Genital warts are small growths that appear on the skin around the genitals, including the vulva.
They are skin colored or white and can look similar to vestibular papillomatosis in some cases. People with genital warts may also experience itching or unusual discharge.
Certain types of HPV infection cause contagious genital warts. They can spread through skin-to-skin contact during sex. Genital warts do not come from the same type of HPV that has links to cervical cancer.
Genital warts are not dangerous and will usually go away on their own. However, people sometimes opt for treatment if the warts are uncomfortable. The warts can also pose difficulties during delivery, so pregnant women may wish to seek treatment.
Treating the warts also lowers the likelihood of a person passing the virus on to someone else during sex.
Treatment options for genital warts include:
- chemical removal
- prescription ointment
- loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP)
These methods are relatively quick and should not cause lasting pain. They are not necessary in the case of vestibular papillomatosis, however, and may cause needless discomfort.
A doctor will diagnose vestibular papillomatosis by asking the person some questions and looking at the bumps.
If they suspect that the bumps are genital warts, they may recommend carrying out further tests.
Vestibular papillomatosis is not a disease or abnormality, and it is not dangerous in any way. As such, it does not require any treatment.
If a person suspects that they have genital warts, they should speak to a doctor to ask for a diagnosis.
Vestibular papillomatosis refers to small, skin-colored bumps on the vulva. The bumps might be flat and round or long and finger-like. They are usually smooth and painless.
These bumps are not a sign of disease and will not spread through sexual contact. They do not require any treatment.
Sometimes, doctors may mistake vestibular papillomatosis for genital warts and do extra tests. It is important for doctors to be aware of vestibular papillomatosis so that they do not recommend unnecessary treatment.