Finding a lump on your vulva can be unnerving, but it’s not unusual for a cyst to grow anywhere- including the vaginal wall and labia. Cysts may develop from trauma, obstruction or spontaneously. They are typically painless and less than 1 cm in size, although they can grow larger. There are several types of epidermal inclusion cysts, including sebaceous and keratinous.
Sebaceous cysts are slow-growing bumps filled with sebum, an oily and odorless substance. When examined, they move freely under the skin. Sebaceous cysts are typically caused by swollen hair follicles or skin trauma. You should avoid touching them, as they can easily become inflamed or infected.
Keratinous cysts are another type of cyst that can form due to damaged hair follicles or oil glands. They are filled with keratin, a thick yellow protein, that will sometimes drain from the cyst. A keratinous cyst may have an opening marked with a blackhead in the center.
If you locate a lump anywhere on your vulvar region, let your OBGYN know. While some disappear on their own, most cysts will remain small and without symptoms. Larger cysts can cause irritation with walking, sex or inserting a tampon. Sitting in a warm bath several times a day for 3-4 days can help alleviate mild discomfort.
You should not attempt to drain any cyst on your own, as they are susceptible to infection. A cyst may become infected from normal-occurring bacteria on the skin or a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Cysts may appear red and be tender when infected. Sometimes, an infected cyst will form an abscess that is pus-filled and extremely painful. See your OBGYN if you experience any pain.
Typically, your OBGYN will note the location and size of the cyst. Unless symptoms develop, they will monitor growth during routine visits. In the event a cyst becomes infected, your OBGYN may prescribe antibiotics. For multiple cysts, general anesthesia may be required to remove all of them. Generally, cysts do not return after being removed by surgery. Your OBGYN may recommend a biopsy of the cyst to screen to rule out cancer.