Swelling in or around the vaginal opening happens from time to time and may resolve on its own. But if you’re having other unusual symptoms like increased discharge and itching, it could be a sign of an underlying condition.
Vaginal swelling may happen from time to time, and it’s not always a cause for concern. Periods, pregnancy, and penetration can all cause swelling in the vaginal area, including the vaginal lips (labia).
Sometimes, swelling may be the result of an underlying condition. In these cases, it’s important to understand what’s causing the swelling and what can be done to treat it.
Chemicals in everyday products like laundry detergent and bubble baths can irritate the sensitive skin of the vagina, vulva, and labia. So can perfumed products and harsh toilet paper.
If you’ve switched to a new product or developed a sensitivity, you may experience swelling, itching, and burning around your vaginal opening.
Stop using any product you think might be affecting your vagina. If the irritation clears, you should avoid the product to avoid future swelling and discomfort.
But if the swelling remains, you may need to consult a clinician. They may prescribe a cream to help ease the swelling and other symptoms.
Items you use directly in or around your vagina can also irritate the tissue and lead to itching, irritation, and swelling.
Condoms, lubricants, and period products can also cause irritation and inflammation.
Stop using the product you think might be responsible for the irritation. If the swelling stops, you know the guilty culprit. If the swelling remains or worsens, consult a healthcare professional.
In most cases, you won’t need treatment. Use an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever until the swelling and sensitivity ends.
Organizations like the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) offer support for survivors of rape or sexual assault. You can call RAINN’s 24/7 national sexual assault hotline at 800-656-4673 for anonymous, confidential help.
In order to keep your vagina healthy, you need a careful balance of good bacteria to protect your vaginal environment and keep tabs on potentially bad bacteria and organisms.
Sometimes, the bad bacteria grow too rapidly and outnumber the good bacteria, resulting in bacterial vaginosis (BV).
In addition to swelling, you may experience:
Some people won’t need treatment for BV. The bacterial balance may restore itself naturally.
If you’re still experiencing symptoms after a week, reach out to a healthcare professional. They may prescribe an antibacterial medication taken by mouth or inserted into the vagina.
A yeast infection occurs when one or more of the Candida fungal species (commonly Candida albicans) grows beyond typical amounts in the vagina.
In addition to swelling, a yeast infection may cause:
Yeast infections can be treated with either OTC or prescription antifungal medication therapy. If you’ve had a yeast infection before, you may be able to use an OTC antifungal treatment to help clear up your symptoms.
But if this is your first yeast infection, make an appointment with a healthcare professional.
Yeast infection symptoms are often similar to that of other vaginal infections, some of which can result in severe complications if left untreated. Your clinician can confirm the underlying cause and advise you on next steps.
In addition to vaginal swelling, cervicitis can cause:
- pelvic pain and discomfort
- bloody or yellow vaginal discharge
- spotting between periods
There isn’t one standard course of treatment for cervicitis. Your healthcare professional will decide the best option for you based on your symptoms and the underlying cause of the inflammation.
Prescription medications, including antibiotic and antiviral medications, can help clear the inflammation and any underlying infection.
Genital herpes is an STI caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV).
Genital herpes causes clusters of small, painful blisters. This could cause swelling in and around the vaginal opening.
These blisters tend to burst, and they may ooze a clear fluid. After they burst, the spots turn into painful sores that may take at least 1 week to heal.
Prescription antiviral medication can help shorten and prevent future outbreaks.
Pregnancy changes a lot about a person’s body. Pressure on the pelvis can cause blood to pool, and other fluids may not drain well. This can cause swelling, pain, and discomfort in the vagina.
Lying down or resting frequently may help. However, if other symptoms occur — or the swelling and discomfort are too burdensome — consult with a healthcare professional.
Gartner’s duct refers to the remnants of a vaginal duct that forms in a fetus. This duct typically goes away after birth. However, if a remnant remains, it could become attached to the vaginal wall, and cysts can develop there.
The cyst isn’t a cause for concern unless it begins to grow and cause pain or becomes infected. An infected cyst can form an abscess. The cyst or abscess may be felt or seen as a mass outside the vagina.
The primary treatment for a significant Gartner’s duct cyst or abscess is surgery. Removing the cyst or abscess should eliminate symptoms. Once it’s removed, symptoms should disappear.
Bartholin’s glands are located on either side of the vaginal opening. These glands are responsible for producing lubricating mucus for the vagina. Sometimes, these glands can become infected, fill with pus, and form abscesses.
- pain or discomfort
Treatment for Bartholin’s cysts or abscesses isn’t always necessary. A small cyst may drain on its own, and symptoms will disappear.
A sitz bath — a warm, shallow tub filled with warm water and sometimes salt added in — may ease pain and discomfort. You can sit in the bath several times a day for up to a week to ease symptoms.
If your symptoms persist or worsen, consult a healthcare professional. Prescription antibiotics can help clear up an infection. In severe cases, your clinician may recommend draining or surgically removing the cyst or abscess.
If you aren’t experiencing symptoms other than swelling, you might want to wait a few days to see if your symptoms resolve with at-home remedies.
But if you’re experiencing extreme pain or discomfort, reach out to a healthcare professional as soon as possible. They can help identify the underlying cause and develop a treatment plan suited to your needs.
In either case, avoid penetrative masturbation and partnered sexual activity until your symptoms clear up. Underlying infections can be transmitted between partners, so it’s best to wait until you get the green light from a healthcare professional.