Have you noticed small bumps on your vaginal area? Health's medical weighs in on what they could be—and whether you should have a doctor check them out.
If you spot small bumps near your vagina, don’t panic. Do they look like little pimples? Small red bumps—sometimes itchy or slightly tender—can occur when hair follicles get clogged or infected (a.k.a. folliculitis). You can get bumps and irritation below the belt from shaving, waxing, or wearing tight, sweaty workout leggings or dirty underwear, which allows bacteria to breed and clog the pores in the area. Red bumps, and possibly itchy, rash-like, or swollen skin around them, might also be contact dermatitis caused by an allergy or skin sensitivity to, say, a new detergent or body wash.
If you’re seeing a small lump near the vaginal opening, it could also be a cyst. There are two small glands (called Bartholin’s glands) on either side of the opening that secrete mucus to lubricate the vagina, and a cyst can form if fluid builds up in a gland and causes a blockage. The cysts typically go away on their own, but if your lump is painful or very large, see your doctor, who can drain it if need be.
Certain sexually transmitted infections, like herpes and genital warts, and a skin infection called molluscum contagiosum do cause sores or bumps on the genitals. So if there is a possibility that you contracted an STI, be sure to get examined by your gyno ASAP, and avoid sexual activity until you get test results and treatment if needed.
Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.