Swollen Vaginal Area: Causes and Natural Treatments
Although you may not feel comfortable talking about a swollen vaginal area, it is a condition that affects many women. Swelling around the vaginal region can occur in the vagina lips (labia minora and labia majora) or the vaginal wall. A swollen vaginal area can be caused by allergies, a bacterial or yeast infection, small cysts, and some women suffer from a swollen vagina after intercourse. Depending on the cause, the swelling can be accompanied by irritation, discomfort when urinating, a burning sensation, soreness, and discharge.
In many cases you don’t need to worry about a swollen vagina and there are many effective home remedies that can relieve the symptoms and reduce the swelling. For example, natural ingredients like tea tree oil and coconut oil can help to kill bacterial and fungal infections that cause vaginal swelling. If the swelling doesn’t go away or if you notice a cyst or abscess, you should see your doctor or gynecologist for a checkup.
In this article, I will look at the various causes of a swollen vaginal area and look at the many different natural home remedies to treat the symptoms. If you are experiencing swelling, itching, burning, or irritation around your vulvar region, please read on to find out how to get rid of the discomfort.
Swollen Vaginal Area – Possible Causes and Natural Treatments
Vaginitis, or vulvovaginitis, is one of the causes of a swelling around the vagina. Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina and vulva and can affect women and girls of all ages and can lead to a swollen vagina. The most common types of vaginitis are bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs),12 which will be discussed later in the article.
Vaginitis can be caused by a number of reasons including infections (bacterial and fungal), perfumed soaps that disrupt the pH levels in the vagina, or thinning of the vaginal lining when estrogen levels go down during the menopause, which makes the lining more susceptible to irritation and inflammation.
Dr. Cynthia D. White, a member of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that some of the symptoms of vaginitis are inflammation and swollen vaginal area, itching, vaginal discharge, discomfort when urinating, and/or foul vaginal odor.1
Some of the causes and natural remedies of vaginitis are discussed in this article, but Dr. White gives some helpful tips how to avoid inflammation of the vagina:
- Avoid personal hygiene sprays and fragrances in the genital area.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes and cotton underwear, or underwear with a cotton lining.
- Keep your genital area clean and when washing or wiping, always go from front to back to avoid spreading the infection to your vagina and causing swelling.
A swollen vaginal area is one of the symptoms of a yeast infection. Your vagina contains a balance of yeast and bacteria cells, however, if the balance is disrupted you can suffer from a vaginal yeast infection called Candidiasis which can cause a swollen vagina. Candidiasis is caused by an overgrowth of the Candida albicans yeast and can cause discomfort and swelling around your vaginal area.
According to the Mayo Clinic, other symptoms of a yeast infection can include redness of the vulva, itching around the vagina lips, pain when urinating, a rash, and a white vaginal discharge without an odor.
Tea tree oil is a powerful antifungal remedy for vaginal yeast infections and can help to reduce swelling, redness, irritation, and discharge from the vagina. A study published by the Skin Pharmacology Society showed that tea tree oil is effective in helping to kill off Candida albicans strain of yeast infection.2 Tea tree oil vaginal suppositories have also been proven to be effective in preventing and treating vaginal Candidiasis.3
Another effective natural remedy to help get rid of the symptoms of yeast infection in the vaginal area is virgin coconut oil. The Journal of Medicinal Food published research showing that coconut oil is an effective natural treatment for various strains of Candida yeast infections. In the study, coconut oil was as effective as fluconazole – an antifungal medication used to treat vaginal yeast infections.4
You can use the antifungal properties of tea tree oil and coconut oil to make an effective natural treatment for vaginal candidiasis. Gently warm 1 tbsp. coconut oil so that it becomes liquid. Add 2-3 drops of tea tree oil and soak a tampon in the mixture. Insert into your vagina for 2 hours to kill off the fungal infection and reduce the swelling around the opening of your vagina (before inserting it to the vagina, do a skin patch test to make sure you are not allergic to coconut oil or tea tree oil).
Alternatively, you can apply a thin layer of the coconut oil and tea tree oil remedy to your vaginal area to treat the yeast infection and reduce swelling. Apply 2-3 times a day until the swelling, itchiness, and discomfort caused by the infection has gone completely.
Raw unprocessed apple cider vinegar (ACV) is another great remedy to help quickly treat a yeast infection and get rid of the itching and swelling in the vaginal area. The acidic properties of ACV help to balance pH levels on your skin and kill off fungal and bacterial infections in the vagina.
You should dilute equal parts of organic raw apple cider vinegar and water. Soak a tampon in the mixture and insert into your vagina for 30-60 minutes (before inserting it to the vagina, do a skin patch test to make sure you are not allergic to ACV). Remove the tampon and rinse the affected area with warm water and pat dry. Use the ACV tampon remedy 2-3 times a day until your yeast infection symptoms have gone completely.
You can find more home remedies in my previous article on how to treat yeast infection naturally.
The Cleveland Clinic says that swollen vaginal area can sometimes be associated with bacterial vaginosis (BV) and in those cases you should contact your healthcare provider.5
Bacterial infections can cause bacterial vaginosis (BV) which causes discomfort and swelling around the opening of the vagina. Unlike yeast infections, bacterial vaginal infections are usually accompanied by a white or gray milky discharge with a foul odor. You may also have a burning or painful sensation when urinating and your vaginal area may be itchy.
Dr. Sarah Marshall on WebMD says that bacterial vaginosis happens when there is an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the vagina. It is a common vaginal infection experienced by women whether they are sexually active or not.6
Yogurt is a food that is great for your vaginal health and you can use it to help clear up the symptoms of a vaginal bacterial infection. You should use raw yogurt that contains probiotics (live yogurt). This type of yogurt contains “good” bacteria that can help to fight off the bad bacteria that are causing the discomfort. One study found that yogurt containing probiotics was just as effective as the pharmaceutical drug clindamycin, which is used to treat serious bacterial infections.7
To use yogurt for treating bacterial vaginosis, you should consume 100 g of raw yogurt twice a day. This will help to restore a healthy balance of bacteria to your body and help the body fight off the bacterial infection and help to reduce the swelling in your vagina faster.
Or, you can apply raw yogurt directly on your swollen vagina lips to ease the itchiness,soothe the irritation, and reduce the swelling. Alternatively, you can dip a tampon in the raw yogurt and insert into your vagina and leave for 2 hours. Repeat the application 2 times a day until you no longer have itchiness and other symptoms of bacterial vaginosis.
Using yogurt to help treat bacterial infections is just one of the natural treatments for BV that you can find in my article about the top home remedies for bacterial vaginosis.
The home remedies for yeast infections like tea tree oil and coconut oil are also effective natural treatment to help clear up a vaginal bacterial infection.
Bartholin’s Cyst and Abscess
Redness or swelling in the vaginal area could be due to a cyst called a Bartholin’s cyst. The Bartholin’s glands are located on each side of the vaginal opening and they secrete fluid that helps lubricate the vagina. When the openings of these glands become obstructed, the fluid is built up in the glands, creating a lump, and the vaginal area could also become swollen, tender, painful, and cause discomfort while walking or sitting.8
To treat a swollen vagina which is caused by a Bartholin’s cyst, doctors at the Mayo Clinic recommend soaking in a sitz bath every day.8 To make a sitz bath, you should fill a bathtub with warm water, making sure that your vaginal area is immersed in water. Soak for 10-15 minutes to help increase the blood circulation to the swollen area and help drain the cyst and reduce the swelling.
If the lump in the vulva area hasn’t gone after 2-3 days or it becomes painful, you should see your doctor. This is important because if the cyst becomes infected, it can turn into an abscess. An abscess is usually accompanied by red, swollen tissue that causes itchiness or pain. You may also have a fever. An abscess can become serious and should be checked out by a doctor.
Swollen vagina lips could be caused by an allergic reaction to clothing, food, or a foreign object that has come into contact with your vagina. This type of vaginal swelling won’t usually cause a discharge.
The American Academy of Family Physicians says that a latex allergy could cause hives, swelling, and even an anaphylactic reaction (swelling of the throat that can lead to death). If you think that latex is causing your swollen vagina, your partner may have to change to using latex-free condoms.
Some women are also allergic to sperm. According to the International Society of Sexual Medicine, a sperm allergy can cause swelling, itching, pain, redness, and a burning sensation around the vaginal area.
As with most allergies, it is important to identify the allergen and try to avoid contact with it to prevent allergic reactions.
Many women who are pregnant say that during the second or third trimester they notice that their labia become very swollen. This could be because there is more blood supply to the vaginal area, and weakened muscles around the vagina could bulge slightly more.
There are some helpful tips to relieve swollen vagina during pregnancy. For example, some women find that a cold compress can help to relieve any swelling and itchiness of the vagina. You could also try lying with your legs up against a wall for short periods of time. Swimming can also take pressure away from your pelvic region and help to reduce the discomfort caused by swelling.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Redness and swelling of the labia is one symptom of a sexually transmitted disease. According to an expert in gynecology Dr. Nivin Todd, the symptoms of many STDs are similar to yeast infections.10
STDs can lead to complications if they are not treated properly. Therefore, it is important to visit your doctor or healthcare practitioner if you suspect that you have an STD. This can help to keep you and your partner safe and healthy.
Swollen Vagina after Sex
Sexual intercourse can cause the area around the vaginal opening to become swollen and uncomfortable. A swollen vaginal area after intercourse could be caused by some of the conditions already mentioned in this article, like a latex or semen allergy, a vaginal infection, or a Bartholin’s cyst. Sometimes, friction can cause the tissue around the vagina and on the vaginal wall to become irritated and swollen.
Some of the natural treatments in this article could be effective if you have swelling in the vaginal area after sex. So, you could try applying raw yogurt to your genital region to increase the number of “good” bacteria. A cold compress can also help to reduce a swollen vagina. You could also try to use lubricants before sex to avoid irritating the sensitive skin in the vagina wall.
Genital Crohn disease
Crohn disease is an inflammatory bowel disease; patients develop granulomas (small areas of inflammation in tissue) and ulcers in the bowel. According to Dr. Calum Lyon, consultant dermatologist, genital Crohn disease describes the skin condition that arises when granulomas affect the genitals and adjacent skin. Swollen vaginal area in genital Crohn disease is due to Crohn granulomas blocking the lymph vessels.11 This is known as granulomatous lymphangiopathy or lymphoedema. The most common symptom of genital Crohn disease is swelling of the labia on one or both sides.
Other symptoms of genital Crohn disease include:
- Skin tags
- Flare-ups of genital Crohn disease which may result in painful red papules, plaques or ulcers in the vaginal area
- Secondary bacterial infection or Candida albicans infection
Genital Crohn disease is a complex condition and you should consult with your doctor about treatment options.
Read my other related articles:
1. Foods That Improve Your Vaginal Health
2. Natural Remedies for Vaginal Dryness
3. How to Get Rid of Vaginal Odor: The Best Natural Remedies