Female genital sores are bumps and lesions in or around the vulva and vagina. Sometimes, they extend from the genital area to the anus.

Female genital sores may be itchy, painful, tender, or produce a discharge, while some may not cause any symptoms.

Genital sores can occur for no reason and resolve on their own. However, some may be due to certain skin disorders or be a symptom of a sexually transmitted condition.

Genital sores may appear as small, red, or flesh-colored bumps and blisters. Sores may also change appearance and become crusty or larger.

They can also be accompanied by other symptoms, such as:

Many sexually transmitted conditions are asymptomatic, meaning they do not cause symptoms. If symptoms develop, it’s considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD), not a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

STDs can cause:

Regular testing is often the only way to know your current status.

STDs are the most common cause of genital sores. STIs and STDs are typically transmitted through oral, vaginal, or anal sex without a condom or other barrier method.

However, other intimate acts involving genital or skin-to-skin contact can increase your risk. The same goes for sharing sex toys or using the same condom with more than one partner.

STDs that can cause genital sores include:

Some chronic skin conditions may also lead to genital sores:

Sometimes, even a scratch can become infected and cause a genital sore.

Bumps and lumps around your vulva that bleed or don’t go away can also be signs of vulvar cancer and will require immediate medical attention.

It’s important to make an appointment with a doctor or other healthcare professional, especially if you suspect your symptoms are related to an underlying infection or STD.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help prevent transmission between partners, as well as reduce the risk of long-term complications.

They’ll start by reviewing your medical history and ask you about your symptoms. This includes:

  • when your symptoms started
  • if the sores are painful, itchy, or leaking
  • if you’ve noticed any changes in vaginal discharge
  • if you’ve experienced similar symptoms in the past

Your healthcare professional will perform a physical examination to inspect the sores. They may use a speculum to examine the inside of the vagina and a lighted magnifying instrument to get a closer look.

Depending on the suspected cause of the sores, your healthcare professional may recommend one or more lab tests, such as:

  • Blood test: Blood tests can help diagnose certain STDs that may cause genital sores.
  • Swab test: A swab of the sore can be taken to test for bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. This can help diagnose conditions like herpes, syphilis, or yeast infections.
  • Biopsy: In some cases, a biopsy of the sore may be recommended. A small tissue sample is taken and examined under a microscope to determine the cause of the sore.

A sitz bath can help relieve pain or discomfort, but it isn’t a substitute for medical care.

This home remedy may help alleviate discomfort while waiting for your appointment or after you begin treatment as recommended by a healthcare professional.

You can make a sitz bath at home by filling the bathtub with warm water that goes up to your hips when 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.

Keeping the affected area clean and dry can help prevent further irritation and promote healing.

Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatories, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), can help relieve general pain and discomfort. Topical corticosteroid creams, such as hydrocortisone, may help with itching.

Beyond that, the exact form of treatment will depend on the underlying cause.

For example, some STDs, such as genital herpes, are incurable — but outbreaks can be treated with medication. Other genital sores, such as noncancerous cysts, don’t always require treatment.

Your healthcare professional may prescribe:

  • Antibiotics: If the sores are caused by a bacterial infection, such as syphilis or chancroid, antibiotics should clear the infection. It’s important to take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed.
  • Antifungal medications: If the sores are caused by a fungal infection, such as a yeast infection, antifungal creams, ointments, or oral medications can be used.
  • Antiviral medications: If the sores are caused by a viral infection, such as herpes, antiviral medications can help reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. These medications may be taken orally or applied topically.

If you have a sexually transmitted condition, talk with your partners about getting tested. You and your partners should also avoid sexual contact until after treatment, as it’s possible to spread an STI or STD back and forth.

In many cases, female genital sores can be cured with treatment. However, some conditions, such as genital herpes or chronic skin disorders, can be lifelong, leading to recurring sores.

Your healthcare professional can discuss long-term treatment options for these types of conditions to manage symptoms, prevent complications, and help avoid outbreaks.

Untreated STDs can cause serious health complications, including:

Consistently and correctly using condoms can reduce the risk of developing or transmitting STIs and STDs. Other safer sex practices, like routine testing and preventive medications, can also reduce the risk.

If the sores are caused by friction or irritation, certain lifestyle changes, such as wearing loose-fitting clothing and using lube during sex, can help prevent recurrence.

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.

What are non-STD causes for vulvar ulcers?

Vulvar ulcers are open sores or lesions on the vulva, the external part of the female genitalia.

These ulcers can be caused by non-sexually transmitted infections, such as bacterial or fungal infections, inflammatory conditions like Behçet’s disease, or medication reactions.

What can cause an itchy bump on the labia?

An itchy bump could be an ingrown hair, pimple, or cyst. Itching can also be caused by irritants like soap or laundry detergent.

What are female friction sores?

Female friction sores can occur during sexual activity, vigorous exercise, or wearing tight clothing. These sores are typically minor and can heal independently with rest and proper hygiene.

When in doubt, consult a healthcare professional. They can properly diagnose genital sores and recommend an appropriate course of treatment.

It’s also important to seek medical care if you notice changes in an existing sore or experience unexplained flu-like symptoms.

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