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Inclusion and Epidermal Cysts of the Vulva

By S. Gene McNeeley, MD, Hutzel Women’s Hospital;Michigan State University, College of Osteopathic Medicine, Hutzel Women’s Health Specialists

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Cysts that develop on the vulva include inclusion cysts and epidermal cysts. Vulvar inclusion cysts are small sacs that contain tissue from the surface of the vulva. Vulvar epidermal cysts are similar but contain secretions from oil-producing (sebaceous) glands near hair follicles.

Inclusion cysts are the most common cysts of the vulva. The vulva is the area that contains the external genital organs (see Female External Genital Organs). Inclusion cysts may also develop in the vagina. They may result from injuries, such as tears caused during delivery of a baby. When the vulva is injured, tissue from its surface (epithelial tissue) may be trapped under the surface. Some inclusion cysts develop on their own.

Epidermal cysts may develop when the ducts to sebaceous glands become blocked. Secretions from these glands then accumulate under the skin’s surface.

Both of these cysts eventually enlarge and sometimes become infected.

Cysts that do not become infected usually cause no symptoms, but they occasionally cause irritation. They are white or yellow and usually less than 1/2 inch (about 1 centimeter) in diameter. Infected cysts may be red and tender and make sexual intercourse painful.


  • A pelvic examination

Doctors can usually see or feel cysts during a pelvic examination (see Gynecologic Examination : Pelvic Examination).


  • Removal of the cyst or cysts

If cysts cause symptoms, they are removed. If women have only one cyst, a local anesthetic is injected to numb the site. If women have several cysts, clinicians may use a regional anesthetic to numb a larger area or a general anesthetic to cause loss of consciousness.

* This is the Consumer Version. *