Female Genital Sores: What you should know

Female Genital Sores

Female genital sores are bumps and lesions in or around the vagina. Some sores may be itchy, painful, or produce a discharge, while some may not cause any symptoms. Bumps or sores on the genitals may be due to certain skin disorders; however, they are most often symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), STIs are a hidden epidemic in the United States. People often do not seek treatment because they are afraid or embarrassed; however, STIs affect all populations and can make a huge impact on public health.

Women are especially at risk for developing serious long-term health complications as a result of untreated infections. Any genital bumps or sores should be evaluated by a doctor to determine the cause and to prevent potentially dangerous medical complications.

Recognizing a Genital Sore

Genital sores may appear as small, red or flesh-colored bumps and blisters. They may have no symptoms aside from their appearance and prevalence around the vaginal area. However, some female genital sores may be accompanied by a variety of symptoms:


➧pain at the site

➧pelvic pain

➧persistent pain



➧a general feeling ill feeling

A sore may also change in appearance and become crusty or larger in size.

Symptoms such as painful intercourse, increased or foul-smelling vaginal discharge and painful urination are also commonly associated with STIs.

Causes of Female Genital Sore

The most common causes of female genital sores are sexually transmitted infections, which can be spread through oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Examples include:

➲genital herpes

➲genital warts

➲chancroid (a bacterial disease)

➲molluscum contagiosum (viral skin infection with pearly nodules)

STIs are not always the cause of genital sores. Certain chronic skin conditions may also produce sores and symptoms such as itching, burning, and pain, such as:

⊙vulvovaginitis (vulva and vaginal inflammation)

⊙contact dermatitis (sensitivity to chemicals or irritants)

⊙atopic dermatitis, often caused by allergies.

Other causes of genital sores may include skin cancer or noncancerous cysts.

Diagnosis of Female Genital Sores

A physical examination can help determine the cause of female genital sores. A pelvic exam will be conducted, and you will be asked about your medical history. Your doctor may also order tests to determine the cause, such as blood work and a culture of the sore. This involves taking a swab sample from the affected area and then testing the sample for the presence of bacteria.

Once the cause has been determined, your doctor will be able to tell you what treatment


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