Vaginal lumps and bumps are common. They can be harmless or a sign of a condition that requires medical attention.

If you’ve ever wondered about the lumps, bumps, and discolored skin of your vagina, you’re not alone. Keep reading to learn more about the causes of changes in this area and when to talk with a doctor.

When people refer to the vagina, they’re often referring to both the internal organ (the vagina) and external genitalia, known as the vulva. The term “vulva” encompasses the:

  • clitoral hood
  • clitoris
  • labia majora
  • labia minora
  • vaginal vestibule, which is outside of the vaginal opening

The vagina is a muscular tube that leads to your cervix, which is the opening to your uterus.

The top layer of tissue in your vagina is mucous membrane, similar to tissue in your mouth or nose. The bumps and ridges on the surface of your vagina are called rugae. They are like folds or pleats of extra tissue when your vagina is relaxed. During sex or childbirth, rugae enable your vagina to expand.

The vulva includes several organs:

  • Labia majora: These are the outer lips of your vulva. The outer side of the labia majora is where your pubic hair grows. The hairless skin of the inner fold is smoother and contains oil glands called sebaceous glands.
  • Labia minora: If you pull the labia majora apart, you’ll see your labia minora, or the inner lips of thin skin surrounding the opening to your vagina.
  • Skene’s glands and Bartholin’s glands: These glands produce mucus and other lubricants. They’re found on the labia minora. The labia minora are also dotted with oil glands.

Here are 10 possible causes for changes to the skin of your vulva and vagina.

1. Vulvar cysts

Your vulva has a number of glands, including oil glands, Bartholin’s glands, and Skene’s glands. A cyst can form if these glands become clogged.

The size of cysts varies, but most feel like small, hard lumps. Cysts aren’t usually painful unless they become infected.

Cysts normally go away without treatment. If a cyst becomes infected, your doctor can drain it. They may prescribe antibiotics if there are signs of infection.

2. Vaginal cysts

There are several types of vaginal cysts. Vaginal cysts are firm lumps on the wall of the vagina. They’re normally about the size of a pea or smaller.

Vaginal inclusion cysts are the most common type of vaginal cyst. They sometimes form after childbirth or injury to the vagina.

Vaginal cysts usually aren’t painful. They’re rarely a cause for concern unless they cause discomfort during sex. Occasionally, vaginal cysts need to be drained or removed surgically.

3. Fordyce spots

Fordyce spots, or sebaceous glands, are small white or yellow-white bumps inside your vulva. These spots can also be found on the lips and cheeks.

They normally first appear during puberty. You tend to get more of them as you age.

Fordyce spots are painless and not harmful.

4. Varicosities

Varicosities are swollen veins that can occur around your vulva. According to a 2017 study, they happen in up to 34% of people with varicose veins in the pelvis and up to 22% of pregnant people.

They appear as bluish raised bumps or round swollen veins around the labia minora and majora. You may not experience pain, but sometimes they can feel heavy, cause itching, or bleed.

No treatment is usually needed if you’re pregnant. Varicosities usually recede about 6 weeks after childbirth. They often reoccur with any subsequent pregnancies.

For those who aren’t pregnant, they may cause discomfort with intercourse or when standing for long periods. A doctor specializing in vein surgery and treatment can treat this condition.

5. Ingrown hair

Shaving, waxing, or plucking pubic hair increases your risk of ingrown pubic hair. Ingrown hair can cause a small, round, sometimes painful or itchy bump to form. The bump may be filled with pus, and the skin around the bump may also become darker.

Don’t try to extract the ingrown hair on your own. That can lead to infection.

In most cases, ingrown hairs resolve without treatment. But visit a doctor if inflammation develops. It could be a sign of infection that needs treatment.

6. Vaginal skin tags

Skin tags, or polyps, are small, protruding flaps of extra skin. They don’t cause harm or discomfort unless they rub or catch on something and become irritated.

If your skin tags are bothersome, your doctor can remove them surgically or with a laser.

7. Lichen sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus mainly occurs after menopause. It’s not a common skin condition. Lichen sclerosus is most often seen on the vulva and around the anus. Symptoms may include:

  • severe itch
  • white spots
  • skin that may tear easily
  • bleeding or bruising
  • pain when urinating or during sex

Corticosteroid cream or ointment can typically treat lichen sclerosus, but it may return after treatment. People with lichen sclerosus have a slightly increased risk of vulvar cancer.

8. Genital herpes

Genital herpes is an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. Herpes is transmitted by vaginal, oral, or anal sex.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 8 people have genital herpes in the United States. Often, the symptoms are so mild that those with herpes aren’t aware they have the condition.

When an outbreak occurs, symptoms may include:

  • blistery sores or ulcers that may ooze or bleed
  • pain, itching, or tingling
  • fever
  • swollen glands

Herpes symptoms often clear up and then return. Over time, most people experience fewer and less severe outbreaks.

If you have visible sores, your doctor may be able to diagnose genital herpes by looking at the sores or by swabbing fluid from them and testing the fluid in a lab.

There’s no cure for genital herpes, but you can manage the severity and duration of symptoms with antiviral medications.

Do not have sex if you have visible herpes sores. Using condoms or other barrier methods during sex will significantly reduce your chances of getting herpes.

Genital herpes can also affect a baby during vaginal delivery if the birthing parent has an active outbreak. Getting regular prenatal care and taking antiviral medications from week 35 or 36 of pregnancy through delivery can help reduce the chances of transmission to the baby.

9. Genital warts

Genital warts are caused by infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). They’re transmitted by vaginal and anal sex. More rarely, they are transmitted via oral sex.

Many people have genital warts and don’t know it. If you have symptoms, they may include:

  • clusters of small skin-colored bumps
  • rough patches of closely spaced warts, sometimes described as resembling a cauliflower
  • itching or burning

Genital warts can grow on your vulva or anus, or in your vagina. There is no cure for genital warts, but a doctor can remove them by using a prescription cream, laser, or surgery. Do not use over-the-counter wart removers.

Some types of HPV can increase your risk of cervical cancer. If you have genital warts, visit your doctor for a Pap test to see what type of HPV caused the warts.

10. Cancer

Cancers of the vulva or vagina are rare. Symptoms of precancerous and cancerous vulvar and vaginal conditions may include:

  • abnormal bleeding
  • unusual discharge
  • noticeable skin lumps
  • pain during sex

To diagnose vulvar and vaginal cancers, a doctor takes a tissue sample from lesions and examines it under a microscope.

It’s always a good idea to visit a doctor if you notice any changes to your body, including a new lump that doesn’t go away after a few weeks. Also reach out to a doctor if you have pain or signs of infection, such as:

If you don’t already have an OB-GYN, the Healthline FindCare tool can help you find one in your area.

Vaginal lumps often don’t need treatment. If they do need medical care, treatment is determined based on the underlying cause.

You can manage most vaginal bumps and lumps at home. Here are some things you can do to help relieve your symptoms:

  • If you have cysts, take warm baths several times a day for a few days. The warm water may help the cysts drain.
  • Soak in a sitz bath in the tub or on the toilet. This can also help soften cysts if you’re unable to take several baths a day. You can buy a sitz bath over the counter at most pharmacies.
  • Avoid wearing clothing that rubs and chafes your vulva.
  • Wear panties made of natural material like cotton. Natural materials are breathable and can help keep your genitals cool and dry.

It’s unlikely that lumps on your vagina are cause for alarm. Most will go away on their own or can be treated or managed at home.

If you have an STI or suspect you might, reach out to a doctor for testing. Starting STI treatment early can reduce your risk of any complications.