Vaginal Boil

Overview

What is a vaginal boil?

A vaginal boil (also called a furuncle or skin abscess) is a painful, pus-filled bump that develops under the skin in your pubic area. It usually happens when the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (commonly called staph) infects the sacs that contain the roots of your hair and oil glands (hair follicles). When a hair follicle becomes infected it is called folliculitis. A vaginal boil can also develop from a cut in the skin from shaving with a razor or other injury to the area. The bacteria will enter the body through the skin and cause infection.

These boils become more painful as they grow. Eventually they will rupture and drain. A boil can develop on the labia (lips of the vagina), in the pubic region (where pubic hair grows) or in the vulvar area around your vagina. Some women will get them in the skin fold of the groin. Boils will start out small but can grow as big as a golf ball.

A group of boils is called a carbuncle. This is when the boils are clustered together to form an area of infection.

Boils are usually not serious. Most will clear up on their own within a few weeks. In some cases, vaginal boils may need medical treatment to get rid of the infection and ease the pain.

How common are vaginal boils?

It’s quite common to have a boil near your vagina. This is because it is easy for a hair follicle to become infected with bacteria. Most vaginal boils can be treated at home.

What does a vaginal boil look like?

The boil may start as a small, red bump. It can develop into a swollen, painful spot with a white or yellow pus-filled tip. This happens quickly — sometimes over a few days. It can feel tender and warm to the touch. Boils tend to get large — some might get as big as two inches or more.

Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of a vaginal boil?

Vaginal boils can start out small and could resemble a pimple or irritation from shaving or chafing. Once it grows and becomes painful, you’re probably developing an infection.

Signs and symptoms of a vaginal boil are:

  • Swollen, red lump deep in the skin.
  • Painful to touch.
  • Develops a white or yellow pus-filled center that may break open.
  • May ooze clear fluid or develop a crust.
  • Fever or swollen lymph nodes.

What causes vaginal boils?

Boils are caused by a staphylococcus (staph) infection, a type of bacteria that is found on the skin and inside the nose. It only causes problems when it gets inside the body. When bacteria get into areas of the skin that have been cut or broken open, a lump filled with fluid or pus will form. This is your body’s way of trying to eliminate the infection.

Some causes of boils include:

  • Being overweight or obese can cause boils to develop between the folds of your skin.
  • Poor hygiene. Wash your genital area with soap and water daily and after exercise.
  • Diabetes or other conditions that weaken the immune system reduces your ability to fight infection.
  • Tight-fitting clothes, especially dirty or sweaty undergarments.
  • Ingrown hairs caused by shaving, grooming or waxing your vaginal area.
  • Insect bites, injuries to the skin or acne.
  • You had close contact with someone who had a boil.

Are vaginal boils contagious?

Yes, vaginal boils can be contagious because it is an infection that can spread from skin-to-skin contact. If you have a boil in your pubic region, you should:

  • Wash your hands with soap before and after touching the infected area.
  • Practice good hygiene and keep the area clean and dry, especially if the boil begins to drain.
  • Avoid sharing personal items like towels, clothing and washcloths until the boil has healed.

Diagnosis and Tests

How are vaginal boils diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will diagnose a boil on the skin in your pubic area after a physical exam. This should not cause any pain and will be relatively quick. Most of the time, a boil will resolve without any medical intervention. If the infection is severe or causes a lot of pain, you may need to have the boil drained or your provider may prescribe an antibiotic.

What tests will be done to diagnose a vaginal boil?

Tests aren’t usually used to diagnose a vaginal boil. If you have recurring boils, your healthcare provider may collect a sample of the drainage to see what kind of bacteria is causing the infection. Recurring vaginal boils may require a certain antibiotic or be a symptom of an underlying condition. You may also be given a test to check for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Management and Treatment

How are vaginal boils treated?

Most vaginal boils can be treated at home with no medical assistance. For at-home treatment you should:

  • Apply a warm, moist compress (like a damp washcloth) to the area three to four times per day. This helps draw the pus to the surface and encourages the boil to drain. Use a new washcloth each time.
  • Never squeeze, pop or cut open the boil yourself. This can lead to more pain and spread the infection.
  • Wear loose fitting clothing to prevent rubbing and irritation to the area.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medication for discomfort.
  • Keep the vaginal area clean with soap and water. Wash your hands before and after touching the infected area.
  • Clean the boil and cover it with a loose bandage after it begins to drain.

Medical Treatment

  • You may be prescribed antibiotics to help the infection heal or if you have a recurrent infection.
  • If the boil is large or doesn’t go away with at-home care, it may need to be drained or lanced. Your healthcare provider will make a small incision to drain the pus from the boil.

What medications are used to treat a boil near the vagina?

Antibiotics are used to treat certain boils that develop near the vagina. Your healthcare provider will determine if an antibiotic is necessary or if at-home treatment will resolve the issue.

How do I treat a boil on my vagina at home?

Most boils will resolve with at-home treatment. Never try to pop or squeeze a boil.

  • Apply a warm, moist compress to the area several times a day. This can speed healing and relieve some of the pain and pressure caused by the boil.
  • Wash your hands before and after you touch the area to reduce the spread of infection.
  • Once the boil opens, keep the area as clean and dry as possible. Wear a loose gauze bandage to protect the area.

What are some complications of a vaginal boil?

Severe complications of a vaginal boil are rare. Bacteria from the boil can spread to other parts of your body or enter your bloodstream. If this occurs, your heart, bones, brain or other organs could be at risk for infection.

Can I squeeze a boil near my vagina?

You should never squeeze or pop a boil that develops near your vagina. This can cause the infection to spread to other areas. It will also make the pain and inflammation worse. Try home remedies that encourage the boil to rupture and drain on its own.

Prevention

How can I prevent getting another vaginal boil?

Boils on the skin around the vagina can’t always be prevented, especially if you have a weakened immune system. There are some things you can do to reduce the chances of getting another boil near your vagina:

  • Wash your genital area with antibacterial soap to prevent bacteria from building up and causing infection.
  • If you shave your pubic area, shave in the direction of hair growth and change your razor frequently. Do not share razors.
  • Do not share soap, towels, washcloths or other items that touch your vagina.
  • Wash your hands regularly, especially before and after touching the genitals.
  • Change your underwear daily and after exercise.
  • If you are overweight, reducing your weight could help as bacteria can survive on folds of the skin.

What makes people at higher risk for vaginal boils?

Boils result from a bacterial infection. The following factors could make you more likely to get a boil near your vagina:

  • Acne or other skin conditions where there are skin lesions present. These can become infected more easily.
  • Being in close contact or sharing personal items with someone who has a boil.
  • Having a weakened immune system can increase your risk for developing a boil.
  • Having diabetes can make it more difficult for your body to fight an infection.

Outlook / Prognosis

How long does it take for a vaginal boil to go away on its own?

Most boils will heal on their own within three weeks. But there is no set time for how long it takes for a boil to develop or heal. Applying warm compresses can help the boil drain on its own. Taking antibiotics can help speed up the healing time, but antibiotics are not always prescribed.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider?

Contact your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms:

  • Your boil gets large and very painful.
  • Your boil doesn’t get better within two weeks.
  • You get more than one boil.
  • Your boil doesn’t seem any better after several days of at-home treatment.
  • You get recurrent boils near your vagina.
  • You have a fever or swollen lymph nodes.

If you have diabetes or a weakened immune system for any reason and develop a boil, contact your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I keep getting boils on my private area?

Some women are more prone to getting vaginal boils. Boils near the vagina are caused by bacteria that enter through the skin and infect a hair follicle. Keeping your genital area clean and practicing good hygiene is the best way to prevent recurring boils. If you shave your pubic area with a razor, change your razor often. An old or dull razor can harbor bacteria and cause ingrown hairs.

How do you get rid of a vaginal boil fast?

There is not a quick way to get rid of a boil near your vagina. A boil often takes weeks to resolve completely. Antibiotics from your healthcare provider may help speed up the healing process. Do not try to squeeze or pop a boil to get rid of it. This can spread infection and cause scarring. Applying a warm compress several times a day to the area is the best way to get rid of a vaginal boil.

What do I do if I have a vaginal boil and I am pregnant?

You should tell your healthcare provider if you develop a boil when you are pregnant. Pregnancy does not cause boils, but certain hormonal and immune system changes could contribute to boils during pregnancy. In most cases, you will still follow at-home treatment. Apply a warm compress to the area several times a day to encourage the boil to drain. Depending on your symptoms and the size of the boil, your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics.

Can I have sex if I have a boil near my vagina?

If you have a boil near your vagina, it is best to avoid having sex. Since a boil is an infection, it could spread to your partner during sexual contact. Friction from sex can also irritate your boil.

Are boils and cysts the same thing?

A boil and a cyst are not the same. They will both look like bumps under the skin. Some of the biggest differences between a boil and a cyst are:

BoilsCysts
Bacterial infection.Not an infection.
Red, swollen and painful.Usually painless.
Large and grow quickly.May be smaller and slower growing.
Filled with white-yellow pus.Filled with fluid or other material.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Vaginal boils are a common skin infection that usually resolves with at-home care. Speak with your healthcare provider if you are concerned about a boil near your vagina. They will be able to recommend the best treatment for you and ensure you have the support you need.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/05/2021.

References

  • American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to treat boils and styes. (https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/injured-skin/treat-boils-styes) Accessed 9/15/2021.
  • American Academy of Family Physicians. Management of Bartholin’s duct cyst and gland abscess. (https://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0701/p135.html) Accessed 9/15/2021.
  • American Academy of Family Physicians. What is a Bartholin gland cyst? (https://www.aafp.org/afp/1998/0401/p1619.html) Accessed 9/15/2021.
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Disorders of the Vulva: Common Causes of Vulvar Pain, Burning, and Itching. (https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/disorders-of-the-vulva-common-causes-of-vulvar-pain-burning-and-itching) Accessed 9/15/2021.
  • National Health Service. Boils. (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/boils/) Accessed 9/15/2021.

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