When we say those spots down there, we’re referring to those large raised bumps that are often red and almost always painful, and that tend to pop up on or around your vulvar area, and even sometimes right next to the vagina entrance.
This post was actually inspired by one of our readers who recently left a comment saying, “So I actually get these huge boils on my vag and they leave permanent scars.” She went on to say how she had always had them, and that she had no idea what they were or why she got them. We could totally relate!
When we asked around, we were relieved to know that almost everyone had experienced one of these huge spots somewhere down there at some point in their life. One thing we all had in common? A sense of panic when we found them because literally no one had ever spoken about them before. Well, we’re here today with some amazing gynecologists to tell you everything you need to know about what those painful spots/bumps/boils are, and fortunately, the solution is pretty simple.
Here’s everything you need to know about vulvar boils and what you can do to treat and prevent them:
What is a Vulvar Boil?
If you’re thinking “wtf is a vulvar boil?” let us explain with the help of Dr. Rebecca Booth, M.D Gynecologist and Co-Founder of VENeffect Anti-Aging Skin Care, “The vulva is the area surrounding the vagina, clitoris, and pubic area.” A vulvar boil is an inflamed bump that can occur anywhere on your vulva and sometimes even just at the entrance of your vagina. Dr. Booth adds “Most boils in the vaginal area are actually vulvar boils. The skin here is very similar to the underarm skin, and both areas are prone to boils or abscesses.”
Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, Professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale University School of Medicine tells us that in some cases, these boils (or Bartholin’s gland cysts) appear “At the edge of the vagina (near where it meets the vulva) and they look like little balls and are usually red and painful.”
What Causes Vulvar Boils?
Dr. Booth explains the cause: “The vulva has many specialized pores and glands that can become blocked, and once blocked may result in a growth of bacteria that can lead to a boil. Sweat glands, oil glands, and hair follicles in the vulva all have the potential to get clogged; a painful red bump will arise, often resembling a large pimple that may continue to appear angry and enlarged.”
The cause of vaginal boils differs slightly. “An abscess can occur inside the vagina if what is known as the “Bartholin’s Gland” duct becomes blocked, and may become infected. These are round, cystic abscesses that can be as large as a quarter or even a ping-pong ball. Bartholin’s abscesses are very painful, and usually must be drained by a healthcare professional,” Dr. Booth explains.
How to Treat Vulvar Boils
As with any pimple or spot, avoid the temptation to touch it and definitely don’t pop it! “It’s not a good idea to try and squeeze or “pop” the bump, as this may only increase the inflammation, causing more swelling and pain.” Dr. Booth says. She tells us that the best treatment for vulvar boils is simple yet effective, “The best thing to do for a vulvar boil is to place a warm compress on it as soon as possible. A warm, moist, folded facecloth works well.” Dr. Booth explains, “Warm compresses will encourage your body’s own defenses to flow to the area to enhance healing. If the boil starts to drain on its own, the symptoms usually improve quickly.”
If the bump on your vulva is super painful, Dr. Booth recommends “Topical anesthetics like Lanacane cream can be applied to lessen the pain.” Adding, “Calamine lotion can also help reduce inflammation while zinc oxide cream can help boost the skin’s immunity.” However, Dr. Booth did add that “Most women will find that warm compresses do the trick unless the boil does not respond, which is indicating the need for medical attention.”
How to Treat a Bartholin’s Gland Cyst
If it’s a Bartholin’s Gland cyst (a large boil at the vagina entrance), Dr. Minkin says, “My best advice if you see or feel one of these is to get into a nice warm tub and spend as much time as you can there, if this thing either pops or just goes away (which sometimes happens) that’s great as there’s not much you can do to prevent them, other than practicing good hygiene.” As well as doing this, we recommend visiting your gynecologist to double-check the situation, especially if it’s your first.
How Long Do Vulvar Boils Take to Heal?
“Most simple vulvar boils only last three to four days, but sometimes the infection is powerful, or persistent, and this requires a visit to the doctor’s office,” says Dr. Booth. If you’re repeatedly experiencing vulvar boils, it may be a hereditary medical condition. “The most common chronic boil condition is called hidradenitis, and it can occur in the vulvar and underarm areas. Hidradenitis tends to run in families and is significantly aggravated by smoking. If you have multiple recurring boils you need to see a healthcare professional about the possibility of hidradenitis.”
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How To Avoid Vagina & Vulvar Boils
As with any body issue, the best course of action is always prevention. And, the key to having a happy and healthy vagina and vulva is ensuring you treat your vagina and the surrounding area properly. Dr. Booth agrees; “Products are more useful with the prevention of boils,” rather than using products to treat the boil itself. Here are three tips for making sure your vagina stays happy and healthy:
Use gentle products: Dr. Booth recommends using “Hypoallergenic, fragrance-free soap or cleansers” on your vulvar area, to avoid disrupting the natural pH levels of your vulva.
Avoid irritation: Try “Wearing natural fiber underwear (such as cotton or silk), shaving the skin as little as possible (not shaving at all is preferred), as well as avoiding panty shields or daily pads,” Dr. Booth suggests. If you prefer to remove your public hair, you could consider having laser hair removal instead of shaving.
Add probiotics to your diet: “Eating foods fermented with lactobacillus (yogurt, kefir) or taking probiotic supplements, like lactobacillus cultures” will help improve your vaginal health.
How to Prevent Scarring
According to Dr. Booth, vulvar boils do not often scar; “Scarring is rare with isolated boils, but with chronic boils, the chance of scarring can be lessened by acting quickly to reduce inflammation. It is rare that a healthcare expert will prescribe antibiotics for a vulvar boil, but it may be needed if the steps to both prevent and heal them naturally are not working, or if hidradenitis (chronic, recurrent vulvar boils) is a suspected problem.”
If you’re ever concerned about anything on your vulva or around your vagina, we highly recommend seeing your gynecologist. For more tips on feminine health, check out what your OBGYN wants you to know!