Health Library

Vulvar Abscess

Definition

A vulvar abscess is a buildup of bacteria and pus beneath the skin of the vulva. The vulva consists of the external genitals of a woman. It includes the mons pubis, labia major and minor, clitoris, and the urethral and vaginal openings.

Female Genitalia
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Causes

This problem is caused by a bacterial infection.

The infection may happen from:

  • An ingrown hair from shaving or waxing
  • A blocked sweat gland
  • Bacteria that gets inside a wound or opening

Risk Factors

Things that may the risk of this problem are:

  • Removing pubic hair using waxing, shaving, or laser treatment
  • Having unprotected sex
  • Having a genital piercing
  • Poor hygiene
  • Having skin problems, such as eczema or psoriasis
  • Crohn disease
  • Lichen sclerosus

Symptoms

Problems may be:

  • Pain
  • Itching
  • Redness, warmth, and swelling
  • A bump or rash
  • Discharge of pus
  • Fever and chills

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Fluids from the abscess may be tested.

Treatment

Smaller abscesses may get better or drain on their own. Treatment may include:

  • Supportive care, such as soaking the area in warm water to help ease pain and promote healing or draining
  • Medicines, such as:
    • Over the counter pain relievers to ease discomfort
    • Antibiotics to treat infection

Some people may need surgery to open and drain a large abscess.

Prevention

To lower the risk of this problem:

  • Wash the vulvar area with soap and water. Dry it well.
  • Clean and treat any minor skin wounds, such as those from hair removal treatments.
  • Do not wear tight clothing.

Resources

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
http://www.acog.org

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.familydoctor.org
http://www.familydoctor.org

Canadian Resources

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
http://sogc.org

References

Abscess. NHS Choices website. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Abscess/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed October 28, 2020.

Abscesses. The Royal Women’s Hospital website. Available at: https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/vulva-vagina/vulva-vagina-problems/abscesses. Accessed October 28, 2020.

Bartholin gland cyst. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/bartholin-gland-cyst-and-abscess. Accessed October 28, 2020.

Lee MY, Dalpiaz A, et al. Clinical Pathology of Bartholin's Glands: A Review of the Literature. Curr Urol. 2015 May;8(1):22-25.

Managing common vulvar skin conditions. Harvard Health Publications website. Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/managing%5Fcommon%5Fvulvar%5Fskin%5Fconditions. Accessed October 28, 2020.