Credit: 123rf

Have bumps and lumps around your vagina? Don’t freak out just yet—the severity of the condition can be classified into three categories: harmless, infection (like a sexually transmitted disease) or malignant. Dr Michelle Chia, a resident doctor at DTAP Clinic, shares what the 10 possible causes are, and the type of treatment options available.

1. Cysts

These sacs that range in size and are filled with liquid or other substances and can occur anywhere in the body, but in the vaginal area they are usually benign and painless unless infected. Cysts feel like small pebbles just underneath the skin of the vulva.

If they are sebaceous cysts (which result from blocked hair follicles and ingrown hair when shaving or waxing), they do not require treatment and can be ignored if they do not cause problems. However, if they become enlarged or infected, a small incision needs to be made.

If they are Bartholin cysts (which occurs when the gland in the vaginal and vulva region becomes blocked and swells, they are also harmless unless infected and turn into abscess (a swollen area containing pus). In such cases, a course of antibiotics usually is effective but minor surgery may also be necessary.

2. Molluscum contagiosum

Credit: 123rf

This skin infection causes multiple tiny bumps to spread across the area of infected skin and are pearly white to skin-coloured. They will eventually vanish after one to two years but are usually a symptom of an STD, so you should probably go for an STD screening if you have these bumps.

Effective treatment options include electrosurgery, freezing (liquid nitrogen) and topical imiquimod cream.

3. Vestibular papillomatosis

This skin condition causes multiple shiny small papules to appear over the skin of the inner labia and vaginal opening and is similar to pearly penile papules (PPP) in men. It should be noted that it is commonly mistaken as genital warts, an STD. Therefore, it is essential to have a correct diagnosis of the condition as a measure to prevent undue stress or prolonged deterioration.

4. Fordyce spots

These spots are enlarged oil glands that show up as small, white to yellow lumps over the inner labia. These spots can also appear on the lining of the mouth but are completely painless and harmless. The bumps and lumps associated with this type of infection is folliculitis, but other causes that are STD-related include genital warts, syphilis and herpes.

5. Folliculitis

Credit: 123rf

This skin condition occurs when hair follicles in the labia region become inflamed and infected, causing tender red spots containing pus to surface. The hair follicles become inflamed from a bacterial, fungal or even viral infection (e.g. herpes) or when there is an irritation to ingrown hair, like when you shave or wax. The treatment is dependent on the type of infection.

6. Genital warts

This STD caused by the human papillomavirus, usually, type 6 and 11, cause warts to show up as small, skin-coloured bumps that can either develop into one single lump or multiple lumps. They are highly contagious through skin-to-skin contact.

Depending on the individual, the warts may go away, remain present or spread and increase in amount. And even without developing these warts, the individual can still be a carrier of the HPV virus. There are vaccinations now available to protect you from certain strains of HPV, including type 6 and 11.

7. Syphilis 

Credit: 123rf

This STD caused by a bacterial infection usually results in a painless sore appearing in the genital or mouth area. The sore can go away even if untreated but this will lead to the development of severe complications because the infection remains.

8. Genital herpes

This contagious STD causes multiple blisters or ulcers clustered in the genital area. The infection can spread quickly to sexual partners even with the use of condoms.

Although there is currently no cure for the infection, there are different treatments, like antiviral medications, to prevent and control recurring outbreaks of blisters.

9. Vaginal cancer

Credit: 123rf

This type of cancer can result in a bump or lump in the vaginal region. It is also accompanied by other symptoms, including abnormal vaginal bleeding, unusual vaginal discharge and pain during intercourse

In such cases, a pelvic examination and pap smear are carried out and if the results are positive, the doctor will then discuss the next steps for treatment.

10. Vaginal Melanoma 

This type of skin cancer is caused by pigmented cells and about two percent of melanoma is diagnosed in the vagina or vulva. However, this cancer is more prevalent in women older than 50.

Vaginal melanoma appears as a pigmented lump in the vaginal area, but other symptoms include itching, bleeding and pain.

This article was first published in Cleo.