Vaginal Swelling: 10 Causes and Treatments

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There are many possible causes for vaginal
swelling including irritation, infection, or pregnancy. It may also
be caused by other underlying conditions.

Vaginal swelling may happen from time to time, and
it’s not always a cause for concern. Periods, pregnancy, and
intercourse can all cause swelling in the vaginal area, including
the vaginal lips (labia).

Sometimes, swelling may be the result of another
condition, disease, or disorder. In these cases, it’s important to
understand what’s causing the swelling and what can be done to
treat it.

If you develop a fever of 101°F (38°C) or
higher, begin experiencing severe pains, or start bleeding heavily,
seek emergency medical treatment.

Keep reading to learn more about some of the
most common causes of vaginal swelling and what you can do to ease
your symptoms.

Chemicals in everyday products like laundry
detergent and bubble bath can irritate the sensitive skin of the
vagina, vulva, and labia. So can perfumed products and harsh toilet

If you’ve switched to a new product or developed
a sensitivity, you may experience swelling, itching, and burning
around your vagina.

What you can do

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Stop using a product you think might be
affecting your vagina. If the irritation clears, you should avoid
the product to avoid future swelling and discomfort. But if the
swelling remains, you may need to talk with your doctor. They may
prescribe a cream to help ease the swelling and other symptoms.

Items you use directly in or around your vagina
can also irritate the tissue and lead to itching, irritation, and

This includes feminine hygiene products

  • douches and washes
  • lubricants
  • latex condoms
  • creams
  • tampons

What you can do

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Stop using the product you think might be
responsible for the irritation. If you aren’t sure, consult your
doctor. If the swelling stops after you cease using the product,
you know the guilty culprit. If the swelling remains or gets worse,
see your doctor.

If the vagina isn’t properly lubricated during
sexual intercourse, the friction can cause discomfort during sex
and create problems after.

Likewise, trauma from sexual assault may cause
vaginal swelling, pain, and irritation.

What you can do

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In most cases, you won’t need treatment. Use an
over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever until the swelling and
sensitivity ends.

Purchase pain relievers online.

Rough intercourse can tear the skin inside the
vagina, so watch for signs of infection, such as discharge and

If you’ve experienced sexual assault or were
forced into any sexual activity, you should seek care from a
trained healthcare provider. Organizations like the Rape, Abuse &
Incest National Network (RAINN) offer support for survivors of rape
or sexual assault. You can call RAINN’s 24/7 national sexual
assault hotline at 800-656-4673 for anonymous, confidential

A careful balance of good bacteria to protect
the vaginal environment and keep tabs on potentially bad bacteria
and other organisms keeps the vagina healthy. Sometimes, the bad
bacteria grow too rapidly and outnumber the good bacteria. This can
lead to symptoms of bacterial vaginosis (BV).

In addition to swelling, you may experience:

  • itching
  • burning
  • a fishy odor or discharge

BV is the most common vaginal infection in women
ages 15 to 44, according to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC). It’s not clear why BV develops, but it’s more
common in people who have sex. However, people who’ve never had sex
can develop it, too.

What you can do

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Some people won’t need treatment for BV. The
bacterial balance may restore itself naturally. If symptoms are
bothersome, these home remedies may help.

If you’re still experiencing symptoms after a
week, you should see your doctor. They may prescribe an
antibacterial medication. These medications may be taken by mouth,
or you may use a gel that’s inserted into the vagina.

A yeast infection occurs when one or more
Candida fungal species (commonly Candida
) grows beyond typical amounts in the vagina. Three
out of four women experience at least one yeast infection in their

In addition to swelling, a yeast infection may

  • discomfort
  • burning
  • pain during urination
  • uncomfortable sexual intercourse
  • redness
  • cottage cheese-like discharge

Check out our color guide to vaginal discharge
to see what’s normal and when you should see your doctor.

What you can do

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Yeast infections can be treated with either OTC
or prescription antifungal medication therapy. If you’ve had a
yeast infection before, you may be able to use an OTC antifungal
treatment to help clear up your symptoms.

Shop for yeast infection antifungal treatments

But if this is your first yeast infection, you
should see your doctor for diagnosis. Many other conditions are
easily confused with a yeast infection, and if you don’t treat it
properly, a vaginal infection could worsen.

An inflamed cervix (cervicitis) is often the
result of a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

It’s commonly caused by STDs like:

  • chlamydia
  • genital herpes
  • gonorrhea

However, not everyone who develops cervicitis
has an STD or other type of infection.

Some women may have cervicitis and show no
symptoms at all. But in addition to swelling, cervicitis can also

  • pelvic pain
  • bloody or yellow vaginal discharge
  • spotting between periods

What you can do

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There isn’t one standard course of treatment for
cervicitis. Your doctor will decide the best option for you based
on your symptoms and the underlying cause of the inflammation.

At your doctor’s office, you’ll have a physical
examination that will likely include a pelvic exam where they
collect a swab of fluid from on top of or near the cervix area for
analysis, to look for a possible infectious cause. Prescription
medications, including antibiotic and antiviral medications, may
help clear the inflammation and end symptoms if cervicitis was
caused by an infection.

Genital herpes, which is caused by the herpes
simplex virus (HSV), is one of the most common STDs in the United
States. According to the CDC, HSV infections are present in more
than 1 out of every 6 people ages 14 to 49 years old.

In people who are infected, genital herpes
causes clusters of small, painful blisters. These blisters tend to
burst, and they may ooze a clear fluid. After they burst, the spots
turn into painful sores that may take at least one week to

In addition to swelling, you may also

  • pain
  • fever
  • body aches

Not everyone with genital herpes will have an
outbreak of blisters. Some people won’t have any symptoms at all,
and others may see a bump or two they mistake for an ingrown hair
or pimple. Even without symptoms, you can still pass the STD to a
sexual partner.

What you can do

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Treatment cannot cure genital herpes, but
prescription antiviral medication can shorten and prevent
outbreaks. Anti-herpes medication taken every day may also prevent
the risk of sharing the herpes infection with a partner.

Pregnancy changes a lot about a woman’s body. As
the fetus grows, pressure on the pelvis can cause blood to pool,
and other fluids may not drain well. This can cause swelling, pain,
and discomfort in the vagina. Learn other ways pregnancy may affect
vaginal health.

What you can do

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Lying down or resting frequently may help ease
the drainage issues while you’re still pregnant. Once the baby is
delivered, the swelling should end. However, if other symptoms
occur — or the swelling and discomfort is too burdensome — talk
with your doctor.

Gartner’s duct refers to the remnants of a
vaginal duct that forms in a fetus. This duct typically goes away
after birth. However, if a remnant remains, it could become
attached to the vaginal wall, and cysts can develop there.

The cyst isn’t a cause for concern unless it
begins to grow and cause pain, or becomes infected. An infected
cyst can form an abscess. The cyst or abscess may be felt or seen
as a mass outside the vagina.

What you can do

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The primary treatment for a significant
Gartner’s duct cyst or abscess is surgery. Removing the cyst or
abscess should eliminate symptoms. Once it’s removed, symptoms
should disappear.

Bartholin’s glands are located on either side of
the vaginal opening. These glands are responsible for producing
lubricating mucus for the vagina. Sometimes, these glands can
become infected, fill with pus, and form abscesses.

In addition to vaginal swelling, a cyst or
abscess can cause:

  • pain
  • burning
  • discomfort
  • bleeding

What you can do

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Treatment for Bartholin’s cysts or abscesses
isn’t always necessary. A small cyst may drain on its own, and
symptoms will disappear.

A sitz bath — a warm, shallow tub filled with
warm water and sometimes salt added in — may ease pain and
discomfort. You can sit in the bath several times a day for up to a
week to ease symptoms.

Buy sitz bath kits online.

However, if the signs and symptoms become too
burdensome, your doctor may suggest putting you on antibiotic
therapy to treat the infection. They may also suggest surgical
draining of the cyst. In more severe cases, a Bartholin’s gland may
need surgical removal.

Swelling in the vagina from time to time may not
be a cause for concern.

You should see your doctor if:

  • other symptoms occur, such as fever or chills
  • your symptoms last for more than a week
  • the swelling becomes too painful

Your doctor may conduct a pelvic exam to look
for a cause. They may also perform blood tests or specimen sampling
to help detect possible STDs, and a tissue biopsy may need to be

Until you see your doctor and have a diagnosis,
refrain from sexual intercourse. This can help prevent sharing an
STD with your partner.

Frequently asked questions

how to make your vag stop burning

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