Think You Have an STI? You Might Actually Have One of These…

Think You Have an STI? You Might Actually Have One of These…


Have you ever noticed strange rashes, smells, or bumps in your vaginal area and immediately assume the worst? Don’t freak out – while the majority of STIs are no big deal if treated properly anyways, sometimes the strange lumps and bumps on our vagina aren’t sexually transmitted.

Our vaginas are little microbiomes of their own, and when the delicate balance of the ecosystem is disturbed, many things can happen. Plus, much like the armpit, the groin also has very sensitive skin folds where plenty of sweat, bacteria, and dirt accumulate, making breakouts and rashes not uncommon. 

You should always consult with your primary care provider or gynecologist if you think something is going on with your vagina, but just because the condition may look a bit out of the ordinary, an STI may not be to blame. Read on to learn more about some “weird” looking vaginal conditions that are not sexually transmitted.

Vaginitis

Vaginitis is a general term for disorders resulting in infection or inflammation of the vagina. Symptoms include unusual discharge, itching, and odor. Vulvovaginitis refers to inflammation of the external female genitals as well as the internal vaginal canal.

Vaginitis may be due to sexually transmitted or non-sexual causes. For example, common chemicals found in sprays, creams, or even certain kinds of clothing and dyes that come into contact with this area may cause irritation with not-so-pretty results. Sometimes, vaginitis may be due to vaginal dryness due to a lack of estrogen due to menopause or a hormonal imbalance. 

Yeast Infections

At least three out of four women have had a yeast infection at some point in their lives, and around 45 percent will have them more than once. Yeast infections are not an STI, and happen when there is an overgrowth of the candida virus.

It’s normal and healthy for your vagina, mouth, and digestive tract to house a certain amount of Candida, but when the yeast overgrows, it can cause an infection. Typically infections happen when the delicate balance of bacteria in your system is disturbed, such as when you take antibiotics, which wipes out “friendly” bacteria that normally keeps the yeast in check. Other reasons include diabetes (too much sugar in the urine and vagina) and shifting hormone levels.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection in premenopausal adult women, and is caused by a combination of various strains of bacteria that normally reside in your vagina. An overgrowth of these types of bacterias due to an upset pH balance results in bacterial vaginosis. Bacterial vaginosis risk factors include cigarette smoking, regular douching, and having new or multiple sexual partners (though it is not sexually transmitted). 

Vaginal Pimples

You may think that vaginal pimples look embarrassing, but they form the same way as pimples do on your face- pores clogged with bacteria, dead skin, and oil. They’re almost always harmless and typically clear up on their own without any outside interference or additional medication. Vaginal pimples may be the result of a range of factors, such as tight clothing, a reaction to soaps or fabrics, or infected hair follicles.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis refers to any reaction you may have due to something touching your skin. When your skin is irritated, it can form pimples. Contact dermatitis in the genital area is common due to sensitivity to:

  • Tampons or sanitary products
  • Feminine deodorants, wipes, lotions, perfumes, or powders
  • Specific types of fragrances in soaps, bubble baths, etc.
  • Laundry deterrent
  • Dryer sheets
  • Certain topical medications
  • Sexual arousal stimulants, spermicides, and condoms
  • Douches

Other irritants include vaginal discharge, perspiration, semen, and urine. 

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS)

Also commonly called acne inversa, hidradenitis suppurativa is a skin condition where small, painful lumps form beneath the skin, typically in areas where the skin frequently rubs together, like the groin, armpits, and breasts. These lumps often take long periods to heal and can recur, resulting in scarring and tunnels under the skin. If the disease causes physical and emotional distress, surgical and medical treatment used in conjunction may help.

Folliculitis

Infected hair follicles can cause pimples in the genital area, and it is especially common since the hair in the groin area is thicker and curlier than the hair on your head or other parts of your body. Thus, when you shave the groin area the hair may curl back towards the skin as it grows back, resulting in irritation.

If the hair grows back into the skin rather than outwards, you may get an ingrown hair. Regular shaving and exercising after shaving in tight clothing may exacerbate this condition, so if you are prone to folliculitis and ingrown hairs, consider waxing or laser hair removal.

Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin infection that can result in pimples anywhere on the body, including the genital area. Although treatment isn’t typically necessary, your doctor can remove the pimples if necessary or prescribe topical or oral medication.

Growths

Growths are a skin condition that can occur anywhere in the body, including the vaginal area.

Bartholin’s Cysts

The Bartholin’s glands are on the labia lips on each side of the vaginal opening, and secrete lubricating fluid during sexual intercourse to decrease friction and protect vaginal tissue. Although uncommon, Bartholin’s cysts may occur near one side of the vaginal opening. If they don’t clear up in a couple days, or cause pain, see your doctor to have them drained. 

Skin Tags

Skin tags are small flaps of tissue posing no health threat that resemble pimples. If they start being irritating, you can ask your doctor to remove them.



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