Definition

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. A vulvar abscess is a build up of bacteria and pus that beneath the skin of this area.

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 raise your risk 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

You may have:

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

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Fluids from the abscess may be tested.

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you.

Smaller abscesses may get better or drain on their own. These steps may help:

  • Warm bath water to help ease pain and promote healing or draining
  • Over the counter pain relievers to ease discomfort.

Antibiotics may be needed if the abscess is large or is not healing well.

Incision and Drainage

A large abscess may need to be opened and drained. Draining the fluid will ease discomfort and speed healing.

Prevention

To lower your chance of getting a vulvar abscess:

  • 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. Updated July 19, 2016. Accessed July 20, 2018.

Abscesses. The Royal Women’s Hospital website. Available at: https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/vulva-vagina/vulva-vagina-problems/abscesses/. Accessed July 20, 2018.

Bartholin gland cyst. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113909/Bartholin-gland-cyst-and-abscess. Updated November 15, 2013. Accessed July 20, 2018.

Managing common vulvar skin conditions. Harvard Health Publications website. Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/managing_common_vulvar_skin_conditions. Updated October 2, 2017. Accressed July 20, 2018.

Thurman AR, Satterfield TM, et al. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus as a common cause of vulvar abscesses. 2008 Sep;112(3):538-544.

Last reviewed May 2018 by James Cornell, MD  Last Updated: 7/20/2018