Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bumps Down Below

Hi Dr. Kate!

I have a problem that's been bothering me for a while. Ever since the first time I started shaving my private area, I have gotten a bump that was red and tough (fibrous). I've had a few more over the years and I always thought they will just go away, but they did not. I notice when I shave sometimes and accidentally cut it, it will bleed fresh red blood but not drain out fully. After reading your post on possible signs of STDs, I became very nervous since it sounds like they are herpes (acne-like bumps). However, they do not hurt, even if I apply pressure to them and they are not open wounds. The bumps are all on the mons, and I can see hair follicles in and around each. Is there anything else other than herpes that can present that way? Is this something I urgently need to see a GYN about? How can I treat it?

Sincerely,
Nervous girl

Dear Nervous,

Bump identification can be tricky. If the bumps haven't been excruciatingly painful, I doubt it's herpes (and herpes tends to present on your labia and near the entrance of your vagina at SOME point as well). And if the bumps are red, it's not likely HPV/warts, which are flesh colored.

While I can never be sure without seeing you, it certainly sounds like you've got folliculitis--ingrown hairs that lead to mild infections of the hair follicle. This happens more often in women with sensitive skin, but it happens to many women at one time or another. Ingrown hairs are common after shaving, and can be even worse after waxing.

T)o treat the bumps you've got, I would start with hot soaks daily (wet a washcloth with really hot but not boiling water and place on the bumps till the washcloth gets cool). After the soak, apply topical hydrocortisone cream (available over the counter) - apply it 2 or 3 times a day. If the bumps don't improve in two weeks, I'd see a gyno to make sure you're on the right track.

To prevent bumps in the future, change that razor! Most of us use disposable razors way too long--and the older a razor gets, the more it develops nicks in the blades that can snag skin, cause (micro-) cuts, and increase the risk of infection. Use cheapie disposable razors, and change them weekly. Be sure to use a generous amount of shaving cream/gel as well. The best way to prevent ingrowns is to also shave in the direction of the hair growth - it may not make for as close a shave, but it will be nicer to your skin.

Have you developed bumps down below after shaving/waxing? Do you have any tricks for treatment/prevention?

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