12th September, 202214 min read

Lump on vagina: what it might be and how to deal with it

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Finding a new lump or bump in or around your vagina can be really worrying. Whether it’s red, itchy, filled with pus, painful or painless, your mind may jump to all the bad things it could be. A lump on or near your vagina can be uncomfortable if your clothes rub against it, or you can’t sit, wipe or put in a tampon without noticing it. And it may make you feel self-conscious about getting intimate and having sex.

Often, lumps and bumps around your vagina are normal and nothing to worry about. But sometimes they can be a sign of a health issue you need to deal with.

“If you're worried or unsure, don’t feel embarrassed – your doctor is used to looking at all sorts of lumps and bumps. They’ll be able to tell you what it is, reassure you, and treat it if necessary,” says

Dr Ann Nainan
, doctor and Healthily expert.

Read on to find out the most common causes of vaginal lumps and bumps, and whether they need treatment or not.

What’s causing the lump on your vagina?

You can get lumps and bumps anywhere in your genital area. They could appear in your vagina, anywhere from the opening to the the neck of your womb (your cervix). Or you might notice them on the outer part of your genitals (vulva), including around the outside of your vaginal opening, clitoris (found where the inner lips meet), inner lips (labia minora) and outer lips (labia majora).

Just as you’d check your breasts, it’s important to

check your vulva and vagina regularly
so you know what they look and feel like normally. That way, it’s easier to spot any new lumps or changes, so you can get advice from a doctor if needed.

“If the lump is very sore or stays there 2 weeks or more, it’s worth speaking to a doctor for your peace of mind.,” says Dr Ann Nainan

Not sure whether you need to see a doctor? You can try our

Smart Symptom Checker
to help you work out your next best steps.

Lumps and bumps around your vulva and vagina can vary in the way they look and feel - from big lumps to rashes and blisters. And there can be lots of different causes.

Vaginal cysts

What are they?

Cysts are lumps filled with fluid that come up on your vulva or just inside your vagina. They can range from the size of a pea to an orange.

What do they feel like?

A cyst usually comes up as a soft, painless lump and doesn’t tend to cause symptoms. Depending on where it is, it may make putting in tampons or having sex feel uncomfortable. And it’s possible it may get infected and become red, swollen and sore.

There are several types of cysts, including:

  • skin cysts – the most common type of vulval cyst, these can appear in your vagina or on your vulva. They’re sometimes caused by injury or trauma to the vaginal walls, for instance during childbirth or surgery
  • Bartholin’s cysts
    – these are often found around the vaginal opening. Bartholin’s cysts aren’t usually serious but if they get big they may be uncomfortable or painful during sex, and when you walk and sit down. There’s a risk that a Bartholin’s cyst may get infected and turn into a Bartholin’s abscess, which can be painful and swollen

Self care for vaginal cysts

Cysts don’t always need to be treated, especially if they stay small and don’t cause symptoms. Simple self-care measures include taking painkillers, and soaking the area in warm water several times a day for 3 or 4 days.

When to see a doctor

A cyst is usually nothing to worry about but a doctor can confirm what it is and rule out anything serious. If you think you have a cyst, you should always see a doctor if:

  • it doesn’t go away after 2 weeks
  • it’s painful
  • you’re concerned about it
  • you’ve been trying self-care steps but the lump seems to be getting bigger or more painful - it may need to be drained, or you may need antibiotics

Vulvar varicosities (swollen veins in your vulva)

What are they?

You probably know you can get swollen veins (varicose veins) in your legs. But you can also get them on your vulva. When they pop out here, they’re called vulvar varicosities.

They often come up during pregnancy, because the growing baby can put pressure on your veins, causing them to become stressed and swollen. They usually clear up once you’ve had your baby. People who aren’t pregnant can get vulvar varicosities too, but it’s rare.

What do they feel like?

You may not notice any symptoms at all, or you may see:

  • bluish or purplish lumps underneath the skin on your vulva
  • twisted or swollen veins that are bunched into a cluster

The varicose veins may cause:

  • raised areas of skin with swollen veins beneath
  • pain, pressure, discomfort, fullness and itchiness in your vulva area
  • discomfort or pain in your lower back and upper thighs
  • discomfort or pain that gets worse after standing up, or during sex

Self care for vulvar varicosities

There’s not much scientific evidence to show self-care steps will help, but the things you can try include:

  • avoiding standing, sitting or squatting for too long
  • raising your legs when you can
  • sleeping on your left side
  • trying compression shorts or leggings to support the area and encourage healthy blood flow - these may be called things like ‘maternity shorts/leggings’ or ‘pregnancy shorts/leggings’

When to see a doctor

If you’ve noticed any of the symptoms of vulvar varicosities, let your doctor know. They can suggest ways to manage your symptoms.
These swollen veins usually disappear on their own around 6 weeks after you give birth. If they don’t go away, you may be referred to a vascular surgeon to talk about sclerotherapy, which uses special foam to close the veins, and ligation, which involves tying off the vein.

Genital warts

What are they?

Genital warts
are a common STI caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).

What do they feel like?

Genital warts look like small, flesh-colored, cauliflower-shaped bumps on your genital area. They may be too small to see. They’re painless but might be itchy.

Self care for genital warts

While you’re waiting for the warts to go away, it’s important to:
use a condom if you have oral, vaginal or anal sex - this can help reduce the risk of spreading warts to your partner. But bear in mind they can be passed on by any close contact, including any areas not covered by the condom. It’s best to tell your partner if you have genital warts so they can protect themselves and get checked out too
avoid using fragranced bath products around your genital area, as they can irritate the skin

When to see a doctor

You can go to a sexual health clinic or your doctor if you think you have genital warts. They can usually diagnose them just by looking and asking you about your symptoms. Around a third of genital warts go away on their own but your doctor may offer treatment, usually a cream or liquid you apply at home. These can work by boosting your body’s immune system, so it can effectively fight HPV, or stop the wart cells from growing.

Fordyce spots

What are they?

These are enlarged oil glands, which look like small, raised, yellow-white bumps on the inner and outer lips of your vulva.

What do they feel like?

Fordyce spots are harmless and don’t usually cause any symptoms.

Self care for Fordyce spots

The only thing you should do for Fordyce spots is leave them alone. Don’t be tempted to pick or squeeze them.

When to see a doctor

Although Fordyce spots are harmless, if you notice spots on your genitals, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor so they can rule out

sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
, like genital warts.

Prolapse

What is it?

Prolapse is when one of your pelvic organs slips out of position and bulges into your vagina. It could be your womb, bladder, bowel or the top of your vagina. It can happen because of a weak pelvic floor, often after you’ve had a baby, or during

menopause
, if you’re overweight or if you have
chronic constipation
.

What does it feel like?

As well as feeling or seeing a lump or a bulge coming out of your vagina, symptoms of

prolapse
may include:

  • discomfort or numbness during sex
  • problems peeing – such as needing to pee more often, and feeling like your bladder isn’t emptying properly, or leaking a small amount of pee
  • a dragging feeling inside your vagina

Self care for prolapse

Lifestyle changes can help in mild cases. It’s important to get to a healthy weight if you need to, and avoid lifting heavy things. Your doctor may recommend some other things you can do yourself, including:

When to see a doctor

You should always see a doctor if you have symptoms of vaginal prolapse, so they can diagnose it. Even if you don’t need treatment, they can talk you through the self-care steps. A more serious prolapse can really affect your quality of life so may need treatment, like vaginal pessaries to hold your pelvic organs in place, hormone treatment or maybe surgery.

Ingrown hairs

What are they?

You can get

ingrown hairs
when hair that’s been shaved, tweezed or waxed away grows back into your skin rather than towards the surface. Ingrown hairs look like red, raised bumps on your skin.

What does it feel like?

Ingrown hairs can be itchy, sore and painful to touch. The lump may be filled with pus.

Self care for ingrown hairs

You can treat them at home by:

  • using an exfoliating scrub to help release any hairs that are trapped under your skin
  • using a mild antiseptic, from pharmacies, to help prevent infection
  • putting a warm compress or towelling cloth onto the affected area for 10-15 minutes to ease the hair out

When to see a doctor

An ingrown hair may be infected if it’s sore, hot, swollen and painful, and you start to feel unwell with a fever. Your doctor can take the hair out, release the pus and prescribe antibiotics. They may also recommend using some steroid cream to help with the swelling and irritation.

Genital herpes

What is it?

Genital herpes
is an STI that can lead to small blisters, which burst and leave open sores around your vulva, anus, bottom and thighs.

What does it feel like?

You may have:

  • pain when you pee
  • changes in your vaginal discharge
  • an itching, burning or tingling feeling around your genitals

Self care for genital herpes

There isn’t anything you can do at home to make it go away faster - so you should see a doctor. But you can look after the area to keep it as comfortable as possible and stop blisters getting infected. Things that may help include:

  • keeping the area clean with plain or salt water
  • using an ice pack to soothe pain
  • putting on petroleum jelly or lidocaine cream before you pee, to prevent stinging

When to see a doctor

You should go to a sexual health clinic as soon as possible if you have these symptoms. You can also see your doctor, who may refer you to a sexual health clinic.
A doctor or nurse will ask you about your symptoms and your sexual partners. They may also examine your blisters and take a swab for testing.
A doctor can prescribe you antiviral tablets, if this is your first time with the virus. If you have another outbreak, antivirals can help shorten it, but it may settle by itself.

Skin tags on your vulva

What are they?

Skin tags
are soft, smooth, flesh-colored growths that hang off your skin. They may be tiny, or up to 2 inches (5cm). They’re usually found in places where your skin folds, so it’s quite common for tags to appear around the genital area. The inside of your vagina doesn’t have skin so you won’t find them there. You can also get skin tags on other parts of your body.

What do they feel like?

Skin tags are harmless and don’t usually cause any pain or discomfort. But sometimes, they can rub against your clothes and catch, which can be uncomfortable.

Self care for vulval skin tags

There are many home remedies you might want to try but these don't have scientific research behind them and you might damage the sensitive skin in this area. You might have heard you can remove a skin tag yourself by tying cotton or dental floss around it, but don’t try this without speaking to your doctor first as larger skin tags can bleed a lot. They’ll be able to discuss your concerns and possible treatment.

When to see a doctor

If your skin tag is irritated, bleeding or painful, you should see your doctor. Occasionally, a growth that looks like a skin tag may be something else, like a genital wart, so it’s a good idea to have it looked at.
Generally, a vulval skin tag doesn’t need any treatment. But if it’s catching on your clothing, or you feel self-conscious about it, you could speak to your doctor about having it removed, usually by being burnt or frozen off.

Vaginal and vulval cancer

What is it?

Vaginal and

vulval cancers
are both rare. Vaginal cancer can be found anywhere in the vagina and it’s almost always caused by persistent
HPV infections
. Vulval cancer can be caused by HPV infections too, but can also be related to chronic inflammation.

The main symptoms of both vaginal and vulval cancer include a lump in your vagina and other skin changes or ulcers in or around your vagina, plus persistent itching and blood-stained discharge.

When to see a doctor

Always see a doctor if you have any of the symptoms above. It doesn’t mean you have cancer - these symptoms are more likely to be caused by something else. But it’s important to see your doctor to rule out serious causes.
If you do have it, treatment will depend on the type of vaginal or vulval cancer you have, how large the tumour is and whether it’s spread. These types of cancer are normally treated with radiotherapy, but you may also have chemotherapy and surgery.

When to see a doctor

In general, if you’re worried about a lump or other symptoms, don’t be embarrassed to speak to a doctor.

You should always see a doctor if you have a lump or bump that:

  • lasts more than 2 weeks
  • gets bigger
  • is painful, hot or red
  • doesn’t move and is hard
  • grows back after it’s been removed

If you’re worried about your symptoms, you can use our Smart Symptom Checker to help you decide what your next best steps are. But you should always see a doctor if you have a new lump or bump, so they can work out what’s causing it.

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.