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Vulval Swelling or Lumps

The vulva is a term used to describe the external female genitalia. The vulva comprises a number of different components such as the labia majora and minora, the clitoris and the mons pubis. Maintaining healthy tissues in the vulva is important to a woman’s overall wellbeing as the vulva is intimately involved with both toileting and sexual function. Unfortunately, the various components of the vulva are susceptible to abnormal changes which is something that can be very distressing and have an impact on your overall wellbeing.

Every woman is different, which is why the reasons behind the development of vulval lumps or the appearance of swelling can vary so dramatically. It’s important to note that these potentially concerning symptoms are usually indicative of something that can be managed and eliminated with the care and attention of a seasoned healthcare professional such as Mr Francis Gardner. There are times, however, when vulval swelling and lumps may require more invasive treatment. 

Potential reasons for swelling 

Amongst the more innocuous reasons for the swelling of the vulva are events such as allergic reactions or the side effects of intercourse. In medical terms, allergy-influenced vulval swelling is known as non-infectious vaginitis and is a phenomenon that can occur due to contact with something likely to trigger a physical reaction. This can include certain materials in a condom,  certain creams, vaginal douches, perfumed soaps and detergents and items of clothing. 

It’s also quite normal for the vagina to swell after sex – this should subside fairly quickly and is normally a product of increased arousal. Swelling can also occur after intercourse as a result of vaginal dryness – this is often influenced by low hormone levels in women who have just given birth or gone through the menopause. 

In addition to these causes of swelling, there are those which can only be resolved with appropriate care. An example of this would be Bartholin’s cyst, which is a fluid-filled lump of varying size that is located at the entry to the vagina. If this remains small, it may not cause the sufferer any problems. However, there is a potential for this lump to grow larger and become uncomfortable, causing a swollen vulva. Sometimes these cysts can become acutely painful, a sign that they have become infected and should be treated. 

Severe candidiasis or thrush, whilst a common infection, may cause vulval swelling and may require prescribed medication if over-the-counter medications have failed to treat this issue effectively. 

Potential reasons for lumps 

For many women, the discovery of lumps affecting the vulva will trigger significant anxiety. Similar to vulval swelling, the cause of these lumps is often something that can be easily identified and treated. One example of this is Bartholin’s cyst, which can lead to vulval swelling upon infection and may be very painful. In some cases, these cysts may spontaneously burst and resolve but may recur without effective treatment. An assessment by an expert gynaecologist is important in this instance. 

Lichen sclerosus, a condition which often affects women after the menopause, can also lead to the formation of itchy spots or painful blisters around the vulva. This can be the cause of serious discomfort and, as such, can make it difficult for those affected to complete everyday tasks without experiencing some level of pain. Vulval lumps can also be symptomatic of several sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including genital warts and genital herpes, which can result in the presence of sore lumps and bumps around the vulva. This is why it is important to practice safe sex, particularly in new relationships. 

In rare cases, growths on the vulva could be an indication of vulval cancer. This condition may occur at any age, but it is most common after the menopause, with those over 65 more likely to be affected. Although this condition is rare (accountable for 1% of all cancers in women), vulval cancer is becoming more common and has seen an increase of 25% since the 1990s.

Mr Francis Gardner 

With substantial experience in the field of Advanced Gynaecology, Mr Francis Gardner has extensive knowledge and understanding of the female anatomy and the problems it can encounter. Taking a professional and sensitive approach to each and every patient, Mr Gardner is well known for his commitment to person-centred care and has helped women of all ages to overcome a variety of gynaecological issues. Book your consultation or One Stop See and Treat assessment today. 



There are many causes for these symptoms, and these will vary depending on your age, general health and recent history and activities. A consultation and clinical assessment will allow the cause of this condition to be identified to facilitate the correct treatment. It is essential for the most appropriate treatment to be used as this will ensure resolution of your symptoms at the earliest possible opportunity. It is always advisable to seek the care and support of an appropriate expert to ensure that this is properly managed. 


If a symptom experiences some acute changes, then making an urgent appointment is advisable. If a symptom is mild and it has not resolved itself after a few weeks, then making an appointment when most convenient for you is advised. If you are concerned about a growth or new ulcer, then this should be treated as urgent. It is important to be seen by an expert such as Mr Francis Gardner to ensure the correct diagnosis is made and the most effective treatment can be initiated.

It is important to have a consultation and clinical assessment to identify whether any further tests are required to confirm the cause of your symptoms. It will normally be necessary for you to undergo a physical examination and you may have to undergo further swab tests to rule out any infective causes. In very few cases, it may be necessary to perform a biopsy or similar procedure using a local anaesthetic to treat or confirm the cause of the problem.

This varies depending on the cause of your symptoms. Treatments can include taking oral medication, the application of creams and ointments, the drainage or removal of infected cysts or, in the case of precancerous or cancerous lesions, further surgical intervention. Mr Gardner will be able to provide you with the correct diagnosis so you receive the most appropriate treatment and enjoy a return to good health.