What Causes Labial Hypertrophy or Labia Enlargement?

Labial hypertrophy can make it look as if your labia is "overgrown"

Close-up of female body,hands on belly
Getty Images/Atsushi Yamada

Just like every other part of our bodies, no two labia are the same. In fact, from woman to woman it's not uncommon for one side of the labia to look different—from color to size—from the other side. The labia is composed of the labia major, the outer lips of the vagina, and the labia minor, the inner lips of the vagina. The labia’s function is to protect a woman’s clitoris and vagina from trauma.

If you notice your labia looks different from side to side, that is most likely normal. If you notice your labia has grown or is growing, it may indicate labial hypertrophy or enlargement of the labia. However, your labia doesn't have to grow over time to be considered labial hypertrophy. Labial hypertrophy can affect one or both sides of the labia.

What is the Cause Labial Hypertrophy?

There is no clear cause of labial hypertrophy. Some women are born with large or irregularly-shaped labia. Other women may develop the condition after puberty, childbirth, or as a result of aging. It is not caused by masturbation, nor is it a sexually transmitted infection. Labial hypertrophy typically affects the labia minora, the inner lips of the vagina. The labia minora can also swell during sex, which is normal, and similar to a male erection. If your labia swells and does not return to normal size, speak to your doctor.

Most women do not experience any symptoms or discomfort related to labial hypertrophy. Less commonly, women may experience irritation, discomfort, chronic infections, pain during exercise, and sexual intercourse.

There is no specific test or imaging used to diagnose labial hypertrophy. A physician will typically diagnose labial hypertrophy based on a physical examination and any vaginal or labial symptoms you may be having.

Treating Labial Hypertrophy

In most cases, labial hypertrophy does not need to be treated. If your labia is enlarged and causing you pain, there are surgical options—known as labioplasty—which can reduce the size of your labia. The surgical reduction can also help reduce infections and any general discomfort (both physical and emotional) you may be having about the size of your labia. If you are concerned about the size of your labia, speak to your doctor or request a surgical consult. 

Other Causes of Labial Changes 

Other common labial issues include Bartholin gland cysts. The Bartholin glands are located next to the labia minora near the opening of the vagina. These glands provide lubrication and can, in some cases, get blocked and develop a cyst, on in the case of an infection, an abscess. Unlike labial hypertrophy, which is uniform, a cyst, which is usually just one-sided, tends to be a pea-shaped lump which can be felt or, depending on size, seen. Your labia can also change if you wear restrictive or irritating clothing or are an active cyclist. If you are concerned about your labia or changes in your labia, speak to a doctor. 

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