Swollen vaginal lips are certainly not the most pleasant condition, but in this article, we will try to help you understand why it happened to you and how you can get through it.
Where there is swelling, there is a pain, and due to the location and origin of this pain, you might not be able to do all the regular daily things you are used to. In some cases, this pain can be quite severe and debilitating, but this rarely happens.
As you already know, the most predominant symptom of swollen vaginal lips is a pain. The pain is, of course, made worse when moving… Most patients also note that sleeping on their stomach is virtually impossible, so changing your sleeping patterns should be a good idea, until the pain goes away.
Another thing to keep in mind is selecting appropriate underwear. Goes without saying that you should wear something comfortable… Maybe even go commando, if you can.
As for the cream, we know that many of you will probably reach for some generic, over-the-counter cream, and avoid going to the doctor altogether. We urge you not to do this since putting the wrong cream onto such a delicate area may cause harm and irritation.
All in all, getting yourself checked out by a professional is the best thing you can do.
Anatomy of The Vagina
This is going to be a short overview of the anatomy of the vagina, just to give you some idea as to why your vaginal lips can be sore and painful.
The vagina is a part of a woman’s genital tract, and it “stretches out” from the vulva and the labia(vaginal lips) to cervix of the uterus. It is an opening between the urethra and anus, and during sexual intercourse, it receives the penis.
Another structure we can mention here is hymen. This is a thin membrane that surrounds the opening to the vagina. This layer will tear or rupture during sexual intercourse.
As for the color, it can change over the years. In your 20’s the color of the vagina is usually pink and everything is as it should be. When you enter 30’s (and beyond), you might notice a slight change in color due to hormones, pregnancy (f you’ve been pregnant) so your inner lips and vaginal opening may become darker.
Some other causes of changes in color are due to weight gain, vitamin deficiency, regular shaving, cosmetic products you use, etc.
The Anatomy Of The Vaginal Lips(Labia)
Vaginal lips are the structure that primarily protects the opening to your vagina, so their role is a crucial one.
In humans, there are two parts of labia: Labia Majora and Labia Minora. Labia majora is the outer, larger and fatter labia, the main reason for this is the fat tissue. Labia minora, on the other hand, is soft and thin as it is fat-free.
The reason we are “interested” in inner lips today is that at their base (on either side of the vaginal opening), we can find Bartholin’s glands. These pea sized glands are responsible for lubricating the vaginal opening, and if these get inflamed or develop a cyst, your vaginal lips will become swollen.
Causes Of Swollen Vaginal Lips Without Discharge
Now, after we’ve covered the anatomy of the vagina and the inner and outer vaginal lips, we can discuss the reasons for the swelling and pain in this region. Keep in mind that these causes are interlinked (one can lead to the other), but we decided to present them in the form of a list, just to help you navigate more quickly:
- Yeast infection
- Shaving injury
- Blocked glands
- This is very rare, but jockeys can have swollen lips, because of riding a horse
- Ingrown hair
As you can see, most of these symptoms are benign and can go away on their own, but there are those that won’t, such as yeast infection or a cyst in one of the glands. And this is why we are going to talk a bit more about these two in the following paragraphs.
Yeast infection is surprisingly common, as much as 70-80% of all women have had this infection at some point in their life. It is important to note that there is even bacteria and fungus in a healthy vagina. The problems start when these numbers go over a certain limit, and the good bacteria starts overpopulating and hurting your organism.
Vaginal yeast infection (or vaginitis) is caused by a species of fungus called candida.
Some of the main symptoms of a yeast infection are:
- Vaginal discharge
- Intense itching, burning, and irritation
- Localized swelling and pain
How can I avoid Candida?
One of the main reasons candid over-populates is eating sugar. When we eat sugar, we provide a fantastic energy source for this fungus, and they start growing like crazy. And before you know it, you will notice itching, burning, and discomfort in the vaginal area.
Yeast infection may appear as a result of a compromised immune system. Various factors can lead to a weakened immune system, some of those are:
- Being overweight
- Pregnancy and
Another major problem we encounter in our daily life is stress. As a society, we don’t talk much about stress and its devastating effects on our body and minds. We used to think that stress only affected our mind, but now we know that it can present itself with a genuine, palpable problems with our entire body.
Daily stress (at your job or home) will weaken your immune system over time and allow these bacteria and fungus to grow and bring harm to the body.
One last thing – buying medication without a prescription and without consulting your doctor. This is one of the more dangerous practices, but everyone does it. There are some conditions and drugs that you can use without having to worry, but if you are taking antibiotics, for example, you need professional advice.
Cysts – Bartholin Gland Cyst
We already mentioned these cysts previously, but now we are going to go more in-depth.
Bartholin glands are a set of small glands located underneath the skin, to the left and the right of the vaginal opening. The primary role of these glands is to produce fluid and lubricate the outer genital area. This fluid is “transported” from the glands to the surface of the skin by tiny tubes called Bartholin ducts.
Now, when these ducts get blocked, the fluid builds up in a gland, forming a cyst. The ducts can become blocked due to various reasons, usually due to some infection of thick mucus, but the good news is, this condition usually goes away on its own.
Obviously, if you feel discomfort spanning across several days, you will want to pay a visit to your doctor and, in case of an infection, get appropriate treatment.
Genital herpes is an STD caused by two types of viruses called herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2.
The disease is common in the adult population and quickly spread by vaginal, anal or oral sex.
How Do You Know If You Have Herpes
The problem with herpes is that it often has mild or no symptoms at all; so once you realize you have it, it might be too late, and you’ve already infected someone else.
Oral herpes resembles an ingrown hair or blisters around your mouth while genital is much more distinguishable. Genital herpes will cause blisters to form around your genitals and/or rectum.
We can not still cure herpes; we can only use medication to shorten and suppress the blisters outbreak.
The good news is that most of the symptoms of herpes will go away after just 2-3 weeks, but the bad news is the herpes virus remains in our body.
This virus may lie dormant, but it may flare up suddenly weeks, months or even years from the initial outbreak.
Cervicitis Somtimes Causes Swollen Vag Lips
Cervicitis is a condition characterized by swelling and inflammation within the tissue of the end of the uterus (cervix).
The condition is usually caused by one of the following sexually transmitted diseases:
- Genital herpes
- Human papilloma virus
Cervicitis can also happen as a result of an allergy to latex condoms or spermicides used in birth control.
Most common symptoms associated with this condition are:
- Vaginal lips swelling
- Anbormal vaginal bleeding
- Unusually colored discharge
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- The feeling of pressure in the pelvis
How Is It Treated?
The treatment depends on the primary cause – we will treat chlamydia and gonorrhea with antibiotics, and herpes with antivirals.
If the treatment proves unsuccessful, the doctor might resort to a procedure designed to destroy the affected tissue.
Burning Vulva Syndrome
Burning vulva syndrome, also called Vulvodynia, might sound like something out of a science fiction movie but the condition is very real, causes quite a bit of discomfort and may indicate a serious health problem.
*The vulva refers to the external reproductive female organs – labia, clitoris and vaginal opening.
Though the exact cause of the Burning vulva syndrome is yet unknown, the symptoms of this condition are apparent and distinct – burning, itching, tingling, and stinging sensations. Your vaginal lips might also be swollen, but there will be no noticeable discharge.
There are several distinct types of vulvodynia:
- Generalized vulvodynia – the case where the pain is felt through the entire area of the vulva.
- Localized vulvodynia – pain in one specific area.
- Provoked vulvodynia – the most common type of vulvodynia, provoked by physical contact – sexual intercourse, tampon application, even wearing tight underwear.
- Spontaneous vulvodynia – this is the term we use when there is no distinct cause of this condition.
How To Treat It?
There is no clear cure for this condition as it depends on many factors, which is why you need proper medical attention.
Contacting your doctor would be the best course of action.
Allergies And Other Irritations
Allergies and daily irritations are one of the leading causes of swollen vaginal lips.
Substances in your immediate surrounding that can trigger an allergic reaction are:
- Chemical and artifical fragrances found in the toilet paper, soaps, and personal hygiene products you use on a daily basis
- Latex in condoms
- Spermicides in contraceptives (spermicides are chemicals that stop sperm celss from reaching the egg)
- Certain types of fabric
- Certain tampon brands can also cause irritation and allergies
The good news with irritations and allergies is that you can easily get to the bottom of it and determine what’s causing it yourself.
If you notice irritation, you can slowly start to eliminate the causes, one by one until you’ve figured it out. The downside of this process is that it takes time…
So, getting yourself tested for allergies in a specialized facility is what we would recommend.
Lichen sclerosis is not often talked about (since it does not affect that many people) but it is a serious, long-term condition that affects the skin of the genitals, and can sometimes spread to the upper body (breasts and arms).
Patients often fear this disease as it is “linked” to cancer, but the critical thing to note is that it will only increase your chances of getting cancer if the skin is scarred. For this reason, regular checkups are required every 6 to 12 months.
What Causes It And What Are Its Symptoms
As with some other diseases we’ve mentioned today, the exact cause of the disease is still unknown; what we do know is that you can’t give it to someone else (it is not an STD).
Some contributing factors to the development of the disease are:
- An overactive immune system
- Disease running in the family
- Hormonal problems
- Injuries and skin damages that may induce it
As for the symptoms, here are some of the most common ones:
- White spots in the skin of the genitals (early signs of the disease)
- Ithcing, pain and swelling
- Skin slowly getting thicker and the patches getting bigger
- Skin that is becomming scarred, bleeds, and tears easilly
- Painful blisters on the skin
How To Treat Lichen Sclerosis
The patches on the skin of the arms will usually go away on their own without treatment, but genital skin requires some attention.
There are various ointments your doctor may recommend, and if they don’t help, surgery is used.
Not all bacteria are bad. There are trillions (just under 40 trillion according to the scientists from the Weizmann Institute) of bacteria within our body. A vast majority of those assist daily functions of our body and help us live a healthy life.
Sometimes, however, good bacteria in certain parts of our body gets overwhelmed by the bad ones. This is precisely what happens during Bacterial vaginosis.
Common symptoms of BV are:
- Swelling of the vaginal lips
- Unpleasant odor (fishy scent)
In most cases, the good bacteria will eventually “regain power” so you won’t have to treat it.
If for some reason, the body cannot restore this balance on its own, certain antibiotics are introduced to help us win this fight.
Swollen Vaginal Lips As A Result Of Medication
This condition is closely linked to the previous section of the article because the medication can sometimes attack good bacteria as well.
It will do a good job ridding you of the bad ones, but some good may “die” in the process.
The good bacteria, healthy vaginal flora, helps keep the germs in check, so when their number is weakened, infections and other pathogens strike, causing swelling of the vaginal lips, itching, burning and other related problems.
Swollen Vag Lips On One Side?
Though not common, there are cases where only vag lip on one side is swollen or itchy.
There are few common reasons this happens, and those are:
Physical Trauma To The Vaginal Lip
Physical trauma to the vaginal area usually happens during sexual intercourse.
Genital skin is sensitive and susceptible to damage, especially when there is not enough lubrication.
Vaginal lubrication is an essential part of the intercourse as it readies the vagina for penetration while reducing friction and irritation.
This is a process that occurs naturally, but sometimes women may experience “vaginal dryness.” It is crucial for the partner to be aware of this as well since sex without proper lubrication can be painful for women can cause physical trauma, irritation or swelling in one of both vaginal lips.
Bartholin Gland Cyst On One Side
We mentioned earlier that Bartholin glands are located to the left and the right of the vaginal opening.
Now, swelling in this area can co-occur on both vaginal lips, but it is much more common for one side to be swollen.
In most cases, this swelling will be quite noticeable, and you will be able to feel it under your fingers. In which case you should contact your doctor.
Image 1 credit: http://www.webmd.com/women/picture-of-the-vagina#1
Image 2 credit: