Everyone gets lumps and bumps on their genitals from time to time. Bumps can appear on and around your penis, anus, vagina, labia, and butt cheeks. Or you might feel a tender lump right underneath your skin, which you can’t see.
First of all, don’t panic. Your skin is sensitive down there, and it’s common to have bumps and lumps on or around your genitals. And many bumps go away on their own. While we can’t diagnose you over the internet, a doctor or nurse can help you figure out what’s going on.
Here are a few common reasons why bumps, rashes, and lumps show up on and around your genitals:
The skin around your genitals is just that — skin. So regular skin stuff can happen. If your skin condition doesn’t clear up or gets worse, see a doctor or nurse — like the staff at your nearest Planned Parenthood health center — to see what’s going on and how to treat it.
Ingrown hairs: Ingrown hairs are really common for people who shave or wax their pubic hair. They may look like a pimple (a raised bump that may appear reddish in color). Sometimes you can see the hair trapped just underneath the bump. Usually ingrown hairs go away on their own, but if not you can see a doctor or nurse to get it treated.
Rashes from allergies: Skin can sometimes react to perfumes or dyes in soap or laundry detergent. Allergic reactions can cause bumps or rashes and make your skin feel itchy and dry. Switching to milder products (free of dyes or perfumes) may help make your rash or bumps go away.
Pimples: Pimples, like the ones you get on your face, can appear anywhere on your body, which means sometimes they pop up on the skin of your genitals. If you notice that the pimple-like bumps around your genitals start getting worse or have pus coming out of them, or if they become painful, see a doctor or nurse — this might be a sign of an infection.
Cysts: Cysts are soft, painless lumps that can show up around the opening of your vagina and on your labia. A common vaginal cyst that appears on each side of the opening to your vagina is called the Bartholin’s cyst. The Bartholin’s glands provide lubrication (wetness) to the vagina, like during sexual excitement (when you’re aroused or turned on). Cysts in the Bartholin’s glands can happen when the opening gets blocked and fluid builds up just under the skin. Generally, cysts are nothing to worry about, especially if they aren’t painful. You can try sitting in a warm, shallow bath or using a warm compress or water pack several times a day until your cyst goes away or drains on its own. But don’t try to burst a cyst on your own, because that can lead to an infection. See a nurse or doctor if the cyst becomes enlarged or too tender to walk or sit comfortably.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STDs)
STDs can cause serious health issues if they’re not treated. If you think the bump you have might mean that you have an STD, see your doctor or nurse — like the staff at your nearest Planned Parenthood health center —as soon as possible. And use condoms and dental dams or avoid having sex until you figure out what’s going on with your bump.
Here are a few STDs that can cause lumps or bumps in your genital area:
Genital herpes: Herpes is a common STI, which can cause blistery, red sores on your vulva or penis that sometimes bleed or leak a white or clear liquid. Herpes sores can sometimes be painful, but other times you may not notice them. There is no known cure for herpes, but treatment can help you manage the symptoms.
Genital warts: Genital warts are caused by an STD called HPV. They’re flesh-colored, soft-to-the-touch bumps on the skin of your genitals that may remind you of cauliflower. Warts tend to cluster in one spot, and while they usually don’t hurt, sometimes they can be itchy. Warts can sometimes go away on their own, but can also be removed by a doctor or nurse.
Scabies: Scabies are an STI that cause super-itchy pimple-like bumps, tiny blisters, or scales on your genitals and other places on your body. You may also see small, raised, crooked lines on your skin. These rashes tend to show up on the webbing between your fingers, where your wrist, elbow, or knee bends, pubic areas, breasts, belly button, penis, thighs and the lower part of your butt, shoulder blades, and/or around your waist. The only way to get rid of scabies is to get treated. You can get prescription creams from a doctor or nurse to clear up scabies.
Molluscum contagiosum: This STD can show up as small, firm bumps.You’ll usually have one or more hard, round growths near your genitals or on your thighs, arms, torso, neck, or face. They can be as small as the head of a pin or as large as a pencil eraser. They appear alone or in groups. The bumps are usually flesh-colored, pink, or white, and they often have a tiny dent or dimple in the middle. They usually don’t hurt, but they may be itchy, sore, swollen, or red. Molluscum contagiosum goes away on its own within six months to a year, but can last up to four years.
The most common symptom of an STD is no symptom at all, so the only way to know for sure if you have an STD is to get tested. So the best thing to do if you have a lump or bump that won’t go away is to make an appointment with a doctor or nurse. Your nearest Planned Parenthood health center can help diagnose and treat your genital skin issue, no matter what it is.