Female genital sores are bumps and lesions in or around the vagina or vulva. These sores can extend from the genital area to the anus.
Some may be itchy, painful, tender, or produce a discharge. And some may not cause any symptoms.
Genital sores can occur for no reason and resolve on their own. But some may be due to certain skin disorders or be a symptom of a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
They can also be accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
STIs, in general, are also associated with symptoms, such as:
But some STIs don’t have any symptoms, which make them undetectable without testing.
The most common causes of female genital sores are STIs, which can be spread through oral, vaginal, or anal sex, as well as through the sharing of sex toys.
STIs that can cause female genital sores include:
- genital herpes, which is caused by a virus
- genital warts, which is caused by a virus
- chancroid, a bacterial disease
- syphilis, a bacterial infection
- molluscum contagiosum, a viral skin infection with raised, flat pearly nodules
Some chronic skin conditions may also lead to genital sores:
- eczema, a skin inflammation often caused by allergies
- vulvovaginitis, an inflammation of the vulva and vagina
- contact dermatitis, a sensitivity to chemicals, detergents, and perfumes
- ingrown hairs
Sometimes, even a scratch can become infected and cause a genital sore.
As there are a number of potential causes of female genital sores, it’s important to see a doctor for diagnosis.
They’ll need to physically examine you via a pelvic exam and ask about your medical history. They may also perform blood tests or swab the affected area and test it for the presence of bacteria or viruses.
A doctor should evaluate any genital bumps or sores to determine the cause and prevent any medical complications. It’s also important to find out if the cause is an STI, so you can be treated and avoid spreading it to sexual partners.
While you’re waiting for your appointment, a sitz bath can help relieve any pain or discomfort.
You can make a sitz bath at home by filling the bathtub with warm water that goes up to your hips when you’re seated. Add a mild saline solution or baking soda to the water. You can also purchase a small basin for a sitz bath from a drugstore and use it instead of a bathtub.
The exact form of treatment depends on the cause of the genital sores. For example, some STIs, such as genital herpes, are incurable — but outbreaks can be treated with medication.
Topical and oral medications may treat the sores and relieve pain. Your doctor may prescribe:
- antiviral medications
- a corticosteroid, like hydrocortisone
- pain relievers
- other anti-itch drugs
Other genital sores, such as noncancerous cysts, don’t always require treatment. But you can have them removed if you prefer.
Practicing safer sex by using condoms can help stop the spread of STIs that cause genital sores.
If you have an STI, try to be open with your sexual partner(s) and talk about getting tested and treated.
You and your partner(s) should also avoid sexual contact until after treatment, as it’s possible to spread an STI back and forth.
Genital sores due to skin conditions or allergic reactions may be more difficult to prevent. Avoid known irritants, such as abrasive soaps or strong fragrances.
The chance of cysts and ingrown hairs, meanwhile, can be reduced by carefully washing the genital area and not shaving red, swollen, or affected areas.
It’s best to see a doctor as soon as possible. That way, they can properly diagnose genital sores and prescribe an appropriate course of treatment.
So if you notice a new genital sore, a change in an existing sore, genital itching, bleeding, pain, or fever alongside sores, book an appointment straight away.
Seeing a doctor is particularly important if the cause is an STI. Young people assigned female at birth (AFAB) are especially at risk for developing serious long-term health complications from untreated STIs, according to the
The long-term outlook depends on the cause. In many cases, female genital sores can be cured with treatment. However, some conditions, such as genital herpes or chronic skin issues, can be lifelong, leading to recurring sores.
Your outlook also depends on the timing of treatment. Untreated STIs can cause serious health complications for AFAB folks, including:
- pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- scarring of the reproductive organs
- increased risk of ectopic pregnancy
Your doctor can discuss long-term treatment options for these types of conditions to manage symptoms, prevent complications, and help avoid outbreaks.