Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions
Could these white, raised bumps near my vagina be genital warts?
I recently noticed white, raised and pointy growths in my lower labia and anus area that hurt to touch. (I think my mom and sister had these when they were my age...are they hereditary?) They look like whiteheads. I checked online to see if my symptoms looked like an STD and genital warts are my best guess...but they’re not gray or pinkish, and they’re not cauliflower-shaped. My boyfriend doesn’t have any symptoms at all, but we’re a little worried. Do you know what these could be?
Ruthann M. Cunningham, MD on September 23, 2011
I understand your concern...there are number of causes of white bumps or growths in the genital area. I encourage you to visit your doctor for a visual examination, but I’ll do my best to describe several possible causes...
Yes, bumps in the genital area might be a symptom of an STD. Genital warts (caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV) and genital herpes are the most likely STDs to cause bumps or sores in the genital area. Genital warts are commonly skin-colored, pink or sometimes brown...but they can also be described as white. Genital warts also come in various shapes and sizes...sometimes they’re raised and pointy, and other times they’re flat and smooth.
To know for sure whether you have genital warts, see your doctor for a full visual examination and Pap test. And for more facts about genital warts, see our HPV Overview.
Genital herpes can also form bumps in the genital area. Most of the time, bumps associated with herpes look like red pimples or blisters...but not always. You can learn more about genital herpes ⎼ its symptoms and its potential complications, as well as how to test for it ⎼ in our Expert Guide to Herpes 1 + 2.
If you or your boyfriend are worried that one or both of you might have been exposed to an STD ⎼ perhaps in a previous relationship ⎼ I encourage you to get tested for STDs. Remember, STDs often don’t show signs or symptoms for a long time...so there’s a chance that, for example, you or your boyfriend got an infection in a previous relationship and didn’t know it.
Getting tested for STDs is the only way to know for sure whether you or your boyfriend have an STD...and if it turns out that one or both of you test positive, you can get treated. Then you can take any further precautions to keep each other healthy. To learn more about STD symptoms, testing and prevention, check out our Expert Guide to STD Basics.
It’s also possible that your symptoms are caused by something else. Some possibilities include harmless pimples, a skin infection called folliculitis, or small harmless growths called skin tags.
Bottom line, there are a number of possible causes of the white bumps near your vagina that can best be diagnosed by your doctor in person. You can also talk to your doctor about STD testing, or seek out confidential testing online.
Thanks for your question and I wish you and your boyfriend the best of health.
Dr. Cunningham is a member of the Analyte Physicans Group. She's also a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, practicing at both Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital in Illinois and at Wheaton Franciscan All Saints Medical Center in Wisconsin. An ER physician since 2000, she regularly treats patients with STDs. Dr. Cunningham was educated at Wayne State University School of Medicine and completed her Emergency Medicine residency at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, IL.