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Sexual Healing: The Lumps That Aren't So Lovely

By Rachael Shockey
On December 2, 2010

  • Don't let genital oddities get out of hand; share all your concerns with your doc. Kaybomb/http

That new, weird bump on your junk is likely to be something less serious than herpes. Still, even something minor can cause a whole lot of discomfort. With all of the pubic hair shaving that goes on nowadays, there are a lot more people encountering minor skincare issues below the belt. The variety of bumps that occur in the genital area causes much confusion in trying to identify what ails your nether regions. Once you notice a bump or growth setting up camp on your crotch, you need to eliminate the worst case scenarios - mostly herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea and chlamydia - right away. Websites like are great places to refresh your memory on the symptoms of different STIs. You can also look at photos online of the genitals of people with these infections (which might sound unpleasant, but can be invaluable in diagnosing yourself). You may be surprised to see what these ominous-sounding diseases look like in real life. Genital warts don't look nearly as terrifying or heinous as the name might imply. Rather, the growths are tiny, numerous skin tags that can spread across the external genital area. "They basically consist of skin folds that are formed by fast growing cells," as described in an article on

Other STIs might appear to be non-threatening cysts that pop up on other parts of your body, so it's important to note the exact location of these growths as well as additional symptoms. Bumps resulting from genital herpes may be open sores, as opposed to the cystic bumps of other conditions. Dr. Cullins explains at that herpes symptoms are typically the worst and most noticeable with the first outbreak, known as "initial herpes." In addition to blistering, itching and burning during urination, "symptoms [during initial herpes] may.include swollen, tender glands in the pelvic area, throat and under the arms; fever, chills, headache, general run-down feelings and achy, flu-like feelings," Cullins writes.

If you have a vulva, and a hard lump develops next to or on your outer labia (the lips that surround your vaginal opening), you may have a Bartholin cyst. Like most other cysts, these are a result of blockage of a gland. The Bartholin glands are two lubricant-producing glands on both sides of the vaginal opening. The good news is that most Bartholin cysts go away on their own. As with other cysts, gently applying warm compresses can alleviate pain and swelling. The bad news is that they can be a sign of a gonorrhea or chlamydia infection; both of these STIs produce bacteria that could block the glands, creating a cyst. Be on the lookout for abnormal vaginal discharge, fevers, pain during vaginal intercourse and irregular bleeding. No matter what, tell your physician if you think you have a Bartholin cyst, and keep a close eye on it.

The trick with any of these STIs is that they can be present in a person without showing symptoms at all. When in doubt, find out the truth about your genital health by scheduling an exam with a physician, and don't wait to do so; gonorrhea, for example, can yield severe long-term effects like infertility.

Less threatening bumps may be a good old case of genital acne. This acne looks quite like the pimples you'd find on your face. Surprisingly, pimples can sprout up almost anywhere in your genital area, including the clitoris and the shaft of the penis. While a minor condition, genital acne is obviously irritating, and you'll want to eliminate it as quickly as possible. Avoid applying acne treatments you would use on your face (i.e. no astringents or Clearasil cream), as they will bother the sensitive skin of your pelvic area. Instead, try warm compresses and gently washing the area with mild soap or just warm water. Talk to your physician if you develop persistent genital acne; antibiotics, prescription drugs and oral contraceptives can all help you get rid of it.

There are a number of lifestyle remedies you should consider if genital acne plagues you. Acne cysts can develop from ingrown hairs. If you don't do it carefully, pubic hair shaving can transform your pelvic region into a minefield of ingrown hairs. Give your crotch a break, and skip shaving and/or waxing for a while if this becomes a problem.

According to, "sweating is the main factor that triggers genital acne. Tight clothing that rubs against the skin can trigger this skin condition." Unfortunately, we've reached the time of year in which one frequently leaves the house clad in two pairs of leggings plus pants and underwear. Winter gear positively suffocates the genitals, creating extra sweat and a potential breeding ground for grossness like acne, rashes and jock itch. If you can't live without your leg layers, combat their negative effects by sleeping naked. Going to bed in the buff feels awesome, and, unless you're pulling all-nighters for the rest of the semester, it allows ample hours for your junk to breathe. For maximum awesomeness in your bare-bodied slumber endeavor, wash your sheets beforehand and throw on an extra blanket (or maybe invite a naked partner to be your extra blanket). If you're super attached to your tights, consider investing in some thigh-highs. That way, you can still sport your fun colors while leaving your crotch out of the equation.

Certain laundry detergents can irritate the skin to the point of provoking acne as well. If all else fails, switch detergents or even use less in your washing cycle.

Cysts in your testicles should always be shown to a physician, but they're often little cause for concern. Ginger Plumbo describes the minor symptoms of scrotal masses like varicoceles, hydroceles and spermatoceles at "They may not cause symptoms and often don't require treatment. painless swelling may be the only symptom," Plumbo writes. They may go away on their own, but can be surgically removed if necessary. However, a comparable, painless scrotal mass may signal testicular cancer, so don't ever assume that a bump in your balls is harmless.

When you're busy bundling up and studying this time of year, it's easy to lose touch with your body that's hiding under all those layers. But the stealth with which serious infections and conditions can sneak up on you makes it absolutely necessarily to check yourself and have yourself checked out once a month, even if you don't consider yourself sexually active. So please, for the sake of your body and mind, touch yourself frequently.

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