What Is A Vaginal Boil?

Introduction

A boil, also known as a furuncle, is like a big pimple, but deeper. It happens when a hair follicle gets infected, usually by a nasty bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus.1 This infection makes a painful, swollen bump on your skin, and inside, it's filled with pus and dead stuff.  These infections can pop up in different parts of your body. Even your private parts aren't safe, and if a boil shows up in the vaginal area, it's called a vaginal boil.

Many women find vaginal boils, also referred to as vaginal abscesses2 or furuncles, distressful and uncomfortable. It is crucial to know the causal factors, signs, treatment, and preventive measures for these painful masses which are mostly filled with pus, that may erupt around or within the vaginal region. This article takes us deep into the world of vaginal boils, analyzing their anatomy, factors that cause them, common signs and several methods of treating them, and how to prevent their emergence.

Anatomy of the vaginal area

To understand the complexities of vaginal boils, one has to learn more about the anatomy of the vaginal area. The area has several hair follicles and sweat glands. These structures can cause vaginal boils when they get infected or inflamed.

A vaginal boil is usually marked by painful swellings due to an abscess involving either a hair follicle or a sweat gland. These troublesome lumps may lead to reddish, tender, sore, and pus-filled bumps in the vaginal region. The good news is that though they can be upsetting, they are amenable to the necessary medical treatment and care. 

Causes of vaginal boils 

The vaginal boils mainly arise because of the hair follicle and sweat gland infections occurring in the vaginal region. Infections caused by common bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, which is often seen on the skin, are also common. In specific conditions like lack of proper hygiene, sweating a lot, and other preexisting skin disorders, vaginal bumps can develop.3

Infection of the hair follicle is a common trigger for vulvar boils. This can happen for several reasons. 

  • Sometimes, the products you apply in your intimate area might inadvertently block the hair follicle's opening, leading to inflammation. 
  • If you enjoy spending time in hot tubs that aren't properly chlorinated, the risk of vulvar boils can increase. The warm and moist environment can create the perfect breeding ground for these painful bumps to develop.

One interesting aspect to consider is that the vulvar region is more susceptible to boils due to its moisture and friction. If you engage in practices like waxing or shaving, you may be at a higher risk of developing a boil in this area. The bacteria responsible for the infection can enter the skin when it becomes damaged during hair removal, such as through a small cut. So, while grooming is a personal choice, it's essential to be mindful of potential risks.4

Vulnerable populations: who's at greater risk?

Certain individuals are more susceptible to vulvar boils. People with weakened immune systems, such as those living with diabetes, cancer, or chronic infections, face a higher likelihood of experiencing these painful boils. It's crucial to be extra cautious if you fall into this category and promptly seek medical attention if you suspect a boil.5

Common symptoms

Recognizing the symptoms of vaginal boils is crucial for timely diagnosis and treatment. Common symptoms include:

  • Redness and Inflammation: The affected vaginal area becomes red and inflamed.
  • Pain and Tenderness: Pain and tenderness are often experienced, especially when touched or during movement.
  • Pus-filled Lump: The development of a lump filled with pus is a telltale sign, which may eventually rupture.

Understanding these symptoms is essential for identifying vaginal boils early and seeking the appropriate medical attention that's necessary for effective treatment. 

Diagnosis and differential diagnosis

Diagnosing vaginal boils typically involves a physical examination conducted by a healthcare professional. During this examination, they will assess the lump's appearance, precise location, and associated symptoms. 

Differential diagnosis plays a pivotal role in this process, as it helps in ruling out other conditions that might mimic the symptoms of vaginal boils, such as Bartholin's cysts, herpes, or cysts. If you suspect the presence of a vaginal boil or experience severe symptoms, it is vital to consult a healthcare provider for a precise diagnosis and the most suitable treatment plan.

  1. Bartholin's Cysts: These cysts can also cause pain and swelling in the vulvar area, making them a potential mimic of vaginal boils.6
  2. Herpes: Herpes can manifest as painful sores in the genital area, and distinguishing between herpes and vaginal boils is vital for appropriate treatment.
  3. Cysts: Various types of cysts, such as sebaceous or epidermoid cysts, can sometimes resemble vaginal boils.

Treatment options

The treatment of vaginal boils varies depending on their size, severity, and individual circumstances. 5 Treatment options include

Home Care:

For smaller vaginal boils, home care measures can often prove effective. These include

  1. Warm Compresses: Applying warm compresses to the affected area can help encourage drainage and alleviate pain.
  2. Antibiotic Ointment: Applying antibiotic ointment can aid in preventing further infection.
  3. Medical Treatments

Larger or more severe vaginal boils may necessitate medical intervention, which can include:

  1. Incision and Drainage: This minor surgical procedure involves the removal of the accumulated pus.
  2. Prescribed Antibiotics: To treat the underlying infection, healthcare providers may prescribe antibiotics.
  3. Consulting a healthcare provider is crucial to determine the most appropriate treatment plan tailored to your specific case, ensuring a successful recovery.

Prevention strategies

Preventing vaginal boils is not only possible but also highly recommended. You can reduce the likelihood of developing vaginal boils by following these strategies.

  • Maintain Good Hygiene: Consistently practicing good hygiene in the vaginal area is paramount.
  • Avoid Tight-Fitting Clothing: Refrain from wearing tight-fitting clothing that might cause friction and irritation.
  • Practice Safe Sex: Practicing safe sex is essential in preventing sexually transmitted infections, which can significantly increase the risk of developing vaginal boils.

By adopting these preventative measures, you can substantially lower the likelihood of experiencing the discomfort and distress associated with vaginal boils. 7

When to seek medical attention?

Knowing when to seek medical attention for vaginal boils is of utmost importance. You should consult a healthcare provider if: 

  • The boil is very painful and does not improve with home care.
  • You experience recurrent boils.
  • A fever develops or you notice unusual vaginal discharge.
  • Prompt medical attention is essential to address these signs and symptoms promptly and effectively.8

Recurrent vaginal boils and contagion

One significant concern with vulvar boils is their tendency to reoccur. Recurrent vaginal boils can be a source of frustration and concern. Understanding the causes and risk factors for recurrence is crucial. In some cases, underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, can contribute to repeated occurrences. 8

They can also spread from person to person, either through direct contact or indirectly. Therefore, it's important to practice good hygiene and take steps to prevent the spread of these infections.

Management and treatment strategies may differ for recurrent boils, so it's important to consult a healthcare provider for a tailored approach that addresses the specific circumstances surrounding recurrent vaginal boils.9

Summary

In conclusion, vaginal boils are painful lumps caused by infected hair follicles or sweat glands in the vaginal area. While they can be distressing, the good news is that they are generally treatable with proper care and medical attention. Maintaining good hygiene and adopting preventative measures can significantly reduce the risk of developing vaginal boils. If you suspect the presence of a vaginal boil or experience severe symptoms, do not hesitate to consult a healthcare professional for a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Your well-being is of paramount importance, and with the right guidance, vaginal boils can be effectively managed and treated.

FAQs

  1. What are the common symptoms of a vaginal boil?

Common symptoms include redness, pain, swelling, and the formation of a pus-filled lump in or around the vaginal area. Discomfort and tenderness are often experienced.

  1. What causes vaginal boils?

Vaginal boils are usually caused by bacterial infections of hair follicles or sweat glands. Poor hygiene, friction, or other skin conditions can increase the risk.

  1. Can I treat a vaginal boil at home?

Small boils may resolve with home care, such as warm compresses and antibiotic ointment. However, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional for larger or recurrent boils.

  1. How can I prevent vaginal boils?

Good hygiene practices, including gentle cleaning and avoiding tight-fitting clothing, can help prevent vaginal boils. Proper wound care and avoiding unnecessary irritation are also key preventive measures.

  1. When should I seek medical attention for a vaginal boil?

If a vaginal boil is very painful, does not improve with home care, or recurs frequently, consult a healthcare provider. Additionally, if you develop a fever or experience unusual discharge, seek medical attention promptly.

References

  1. Foster T. Staphylococcus. In: Baron S, editor. Medical Microbiology. 4th edition. Galveston (TX): University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; 1996. Chapter 12. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK8448/
  2. Yeh, Chia-Chi, et al. “Uncommon Cause of Voiding Dysfunction in a Female Patient-Vaginal Abscess: A Case Report.” World Journal of Clinical Cases, vol. 6, no. 16, Dec. 2018, pp. 1199–201. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.12998/wjcc.v6.i16.1199.
  3. Lin, Huang-Shen, et al. “Interventions for Bacterial Folliculitis and Boils (Furuncles and Carbuncles).” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, edited by Cochrane Skin Group, vol. 2021, no. 3, Feb. 2021. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD013099.pub2.
  4. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/disorders-of-the-vulva-common-causes-of-vulvar-pain-burning-and-itching
  5. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Boils and carbuncles: Overview. 2018 Jun 14. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513141/
  6. https://www.health.com/condition/sexual-health/bartholins-cyst
  7. https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/vaginal-boils#prevention
  8. Ibler, Kristina, and Charles Kromann. “Recurrent Furunculosis – Challenges and Management: A Review.” Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, Feb. 2014, p. 59. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S35302.
  9. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a19956532/vaginal-sores-and-bumps-to-know/
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.
my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Email:
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818