Vaginal Bumps

Reviewed by Frank Cockerill, MD, July 21, 2017

Many women who are worried about possible STD exposure become hyper-aware of any never-before noticed lumps or bumps in the genital area. It's often the case that women who have never closely inspected their vagina become alarmed by the discovery of normal skin markings or bumps on the genitals that have always been there, such as hair follicles or oil glands.

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New or not usually present bumps in the genital area can also be due to non-STD causes, such as irritation from shaving, rubbing on clothing, an infected hair follicle, or an allergic reaction to a new shampoo, soap, or lubricant. Sometimes these skin findings can be easily confused with vaginal bumps caused by a sexually transmitted infection.

Vaginal bumps can be a sign of genital herpes

The most common STD that produces bumps on the vagina or skin in the genital area is herpes simplex virus type 2. Herpes outbreaks are characterized by a cluster or close grouping of small, round blister-like spots that occur in the genital region (any skin that would typically be covered by shorts). These outbreaks are usually painful. Typically, the spots appear to be filled with a clear fluid, and break open in a few days. After opening, the spots appear reddish and can have a crusty appearance. They will continue to go away over the course of several days to weeks, until they are gone. Sometimes the painless, red ulcer caused by syphilis can be mistaken for a bump or sore caused by herpes.

HPV can cause bumps on the vagina

Another STD that can produce small bumps on the vagina or surrounding area is human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes genital warts. Typically, warts are found in small clusters, are the same color as the surrounding skin, and grow in patches. They are typically not painful. Unlike herpes bumps which come and go, genital warts are persistent.

Getting tested for STDs can help determine the cause of bumps

Many times it's difficult to tell whether a spot or group of bumps is caused by an STD, or is due to some other cause. If you are sexually active and have never been tested, or have had a new partner since the last time you tested, it's important to get tested. It's the only way to know what could be causing a symptom like vaginal bumps.

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