Guest Author - Dr. Denise Howard
Vulvar growths can occur in the labia minor, majora, mons and the introitus. They can come form the skin surface, deep skin layers, and even the glands. These growths can be benign or cancerous. Therefore, a physician should evaluate any unusual or sudden growth to determine the cause.
Genital warts will commonly present as a new growth in the vulva area. Their appearance may vary but typically look like miniature cauliflower. These are caused by infection with human papilloma virus. Types 6 and 11 cause over 90% of genital warts. They generally resolve over time however their appearance and discomfort sometimes lead women to seek care. They can also lead to vulvar cancer in rare cases. The warts can be treated in a number of ways. They can be excised or treated with a local acid solution however this has to be done by a doctor. Podophyllin and imiquimod cream can be prescribed at home use.
Another infectious related skin problem is molluscum contagiosum. It is caused by a pox virus and is more common in immunosuppressed individuals. It presents with scattered pearly or translucent papules with an umbilicated center. The treatment is the same as for genital warts.
Acrochordon or skin tags are commonly found in the vulvar area and inner thigh. They are pedunculated soft fibromas, which tend to develop in areas of friction. Therefore are more common in obese or overweight women. They can be excised in the office with a local anesthetic.
Cysts are fluid filled structures, which are usually benign. Sebaceous or epidermal cyst can occur in the skin of the vulva. These cysts can occur anywhere on the skin and result when the skin cells become trapped beneath the surface and the exfoliated cells and glandular material build up creating a cystic structure. These cysts can sometimes become infected and may need to be excised if they get too large.
The bartholinís gland secretes fluid that helps lubricate the birth canal. It is located just inside the introitus at the entrance to the birth canal. If the duct becomes obstructed this fluid has nowhere to drain and tends to build up, causing a bartholinís cyst. If this cyst gets infected then it is known as an abscess. Bartholinís abscess presents with pain and swelling in the genital area. In many cases it may rupture spontaneously providing immediate relief or may require incision and drainage by a health care provider.
There are also many other unusual growths that can appear in the vulvar area. Examples are lipomas, which are fatty tumors, leiomyomas which are tumors of the smooth cells and fibromas. These tend to be benign but in rare cases can be malignant. Even hernias can present with growths in the vulvar area.
Vulvar growths can result from any number of causes. The vast majority are benign and can be managed easily. If you have an unusual growth it is best to see your gynecologist who can help determine the source of the problem.