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There’s a bump on my clitoris that shouldn't be there. It's white and the size of a pinhead. What could it be?
There’s a bump on my clitoris that shouldn't be there. It's white and the size of a pinhead. I've only had one irregular Pap test in my life, and that was about five years ago. Everything's been fine since then. Also, I haven't had any new partners for many months before this thing turned up. What could it be?
Lisa Oldson, MD on September 13, 2011
Thanks for sharing your concern, and I will try my best to provide you some helpful information. However, this isn’t something to ignore...so my first recommendation is to get an examined by your doctor.
Meanwhile, here’s some food for thought...
There are several options of what might be causing a white bump on your clitoris. Although your doctor will be able to tell you more, some possible causes include a build-up of skin cells on the hood of your clitoris, or a sexually transmitted disease (STD) like genital warts.
Some women can develop a build-up of dead skin cells on or around the clitoris, which can cause discomfort. This typically happens because the area hasn’t been washed thoroughly and often, but it could happen to anyone. If this is the cause of the white bump, talk to your doctor for recommendations about how to properly cleanse your clitoris.
Genital warts, on the other hand, are an STD that can cause light-colored bumps in the genitals. The warts are caused by some types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that is transmitted through skin-to-skin genital contact with someone who’s infected. Unfortunately, it’s possible for someone to be infected and not have any visible symptoms. If you do develop symptoms from HPV that causes genital warts, they can show up anywhere from weeks to years after exposure to the virus.
Genital warts can be different shapes and sizes...from flat and smooth, to bumpy and rough. And they’re often described as being firm, cauliflower-like growths in the genital area. For most people, the skin-colored or whitish warts are painless.
Once you see your doctor, you’ll know if the bump you have is a wart and whether you need treatment. Upon treatment, the virus may stay in your body for a few years until your body eventually fights it off...in the meantime, it’s a good idea to use barrier protection when you have sex. To learn more about genital warts and safer sex practices, see our HPV Overview.
You mentioned that you had an “irregular Pap test” five years ago. The likelihood that your abnormal Pap test is related to the bump on your clitoris is small. Although HPV is the cause of both genital warts and irregular Pap tests, genital warts are caused by a different type of HPV than the kind that causes irregular Paps.
Paps tests are used to detect cervical cancer at a very early stage...or to hopefully detect changes in the cervix from HPV before cancer has a chance to develop. Put another way, Pap tests ensure more effective HPV treatment. In fact, based on the effectiveness of national Pap programs in eight countries, the International Agency for Research on Cancer projects that there would be a 90% reduction in cervical cancer if all women would get regular Pap tests.
So I encourage you to follow your doctor’s recommendation for regular Pap tests, and I hope you’ll also speak with your doctor about the white bump on your clitoris. Thanks again for writing, and I wish you good luck in resolving your symptom.
• CDC: Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.