Fertility physician Dr Raewyn Teirney demystifies the lumps and bumps you may see below your belt, explaining which ones are nothing to worry about and which ones to take seriously.
Occasionally you may find red and swollen bumps on your bikini line, or even on your vulva. They are not always something to worry about. If you wax in this area, it could very well be an ingrown hair or two. This happens a lot when you wax away hair; waxing makes the hair strand a lot softer which means it can’t push through the skin’s surface as effectively as it could before you waxed. It then becomes stuck and occasionally infected. Whatever you do, don’t squeeze it, as you risk further infection and scarring. Instead, use an AHA-based body wash in the shower which will help exfoliate the area, thereby making it easier for the hair to grow through. Always keep the area well moisturised too, using a non-scented, basic moisturiser.
If you find a round, ball-shaped lump under your skin that you can easily move around, it’s likely to be a cyst. Usually they remain the same size, but occasionally they will grow. If they begin to itch or hurt, that’s a sign they have become infected and you may need to see your doctor to get some antibiotics. Your doctor can also drain the cyst if it is quite advanced. Some may grow a little bit, but most stay the same size.
Boils appear as red, swollen, painful bumps and are usually present in the groin or bottom, frequently growing until pus appears on the top. Again, never pick at it or try to squeeze it, as you risk further infection and scarring. Your doctor can work out the best plan of attack, which may include a course of antibiotics and/or draining the boil.
Skin tags appear as little flesh-coloured lumps or flaps or skin that sit loosely in place in your groin, under arms or anywhere on the body. They show up in women who have PCOS, are overweight or have an age-related hormonal imbalance. The good news is they don’t hurt, and they are not something to worry about. Never try to cut it off or remove it yourself. If it is bothering you, see your doctor to have it safely removed in a clinical environment.
Genital warts appear in the form of bumps on the vaginal region or around the anus. They can be large or small, smooth or rough or look like tiny cauliflowers. Sometimes they may be itchy, but typically are not painful. Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted. See your doctor, because if they are not monitored, they can cause cellular changes at the cervix. They can be treated with lasers, freezing, surgery and some topical formulas, however they usually self-resolve after a couple of years.
Syphilis usually first appears as a sore on the genitals or the mouth. Usually, the sores are pretty much painless. Following this – the second phase – you may experience a rash that doesn’t itch and wart-like growths. The infection does not self-resolve so even if these bumps disappear it is vital that you see your doctor who can prescribe a course of antibiotics. Always use a condom when having sex outside of a monogamous relationship to protect yourself from syphilis and other STIs.
Genital herpes lay dormant in the body until a flare up, which appears as itchy, painful blisters on the genitals. They may break and leave sores that take a week or two to clear up. Be careful not to touch these blisters or sores and then touch other parts of the body, as it can easily be spread. If you experience regular or severe flare ups, speak to your GP about anti-viral medication.
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