The inner labia

Definition - What are the inner labia?

The inner labia consist of two folds of skin and connective tissue that delimit the vaginal vestibule and lie between the large labia (also known as the outer labia).
The labia minora are part of the external genitalia (vulva) of women. They are used to close the vaginal entrance and thus protect against infections. They are also sensitive to touch and swell when sexually aroused.

Inner labia anatomy

The inner labia are paired, which means that there are two of them on opposite sides. These are folds of skin and connective tissue that are fat-free and therefore quite thin. They are usually hairless. On the outside, the inner labia are more colored (pigmented) than on the inside. They are richly supplied with nerves and blood vessels, which is why they are very sensitive and can swell when sexually aroused.

The inner labia lie between the outer labia. Often, but not always, they are covered by these. The size of the inner labia is very variable and it is quite normal for larger inner labia to protrude from between the outer ones.

Learn what to do with a greater inner labia can do.

The labia minora diverge on the top or front side, forming two small folds. The middle fold forms the clitoral reins, the lateral fold forms the clitoral hood.

The vaginal vestibule, in which the entrance to the vagina is located, is located between the inner labia.

also read: Labia minora

Function of the inner labia

The inner labia are mainly used to close and protect the vaginal vestibule and thus also that of the vagina. This protection is necessary above all to prevent infections and dehydration.

The inner labia are very sensitive and can contribute to sexual arousal when touched. They also contain glands that are used to moisten the vagina. In addition, they swell when sexually aroused, which can cause the vaginal entrance to open.

Inner labia are larger than outer ones

The size of the inner labia is very variable. In some women, they can also be larger than the outer labia. The size of the inner labia is primarily determined genetically.
In newborns, they are comparatively small and mostly covered by the outer labia. In the course of puberty, hormonal influences (especially estrogen) lead to the growth of the secondary sexual characteristics, i.e. also to the growth of the inner labia. This is a completely natural process that is not a disease. The inner labia can also increase in size with age.

Inner labia that protrude beyond the outer one can in rare cases cause problems. Here, the inner labia can be reduced in size by surgery. The problems are due to the fact that the sensitive inner labia are less protected against pressure, which can have an impact, for example, during sports or sex.

Urination can also be impaired in rare cases. In addition, women and girls who find the size of their labia unaesthetic can fear showing their genital area. Most of these women also have labia that are completely average.
Larger inner labia are normal and found in many women.

For more information, see: Shrink labia - costs, process & risks

Inner labia are sore

Sore inner labia can have many causes. Some are fairly easy to fix, such as mechanical irritation from tight underwear, clothing, or the occasional cycling.

In addition, allergic reactions can cause the inner labia to feel sore. Usually it is allergens with which there is direct contact, e.g. the components of underwear or their detergents, but also latex in condoms. Often the inner labia and the surrounding area are swollen and itchy in the case of an allergy; if the trigger is omitted, there is an improvement.

Soreness of the inner labia can also be triggered by infection. Fungal infestation is particularly common, especially with the yeast Candida albicans. This fungus is found on the skin of many people without being visible or causing symptoms; it is kept in check by our immune system. If the immune system is attacked, e.g. under stress, it can lead to an infection with symptoms (candidiasis). This leads to reddening and possibly pain of the inner labia as well as changed discharge.
Bacteria (e.g. Trichiomasis) can also cause these symptoms.

If the feeling of soreness persists, a gynecologist should be consulted to clarify the cause and initiate the correct therapy. This is especially true if you experience other symptoms, such as a burning sensation when urinating, bad smell, discolored discharge, or pain.

Find out more at: Pain in the labia

Pimples on the inner labia

Pimples form when inflammation causes pus to become trapped in the tissue. Most of the time, a purulent inflammation is caused by bacteria. It is accompanied by swelling, redness, overheating and pain.

A pimple on the inner labia occurs especially when the internal glands (Bartholin's glands) are inflamed. This can be caused by various bacteria, which can also be found in healthy people in the intestines or vagina.
Purulent inflammation of the inner labia can rarely be a sign of an infection with Neisseria gonorrhea, the causative agent of gonorrhea.

Herpes viruses that infect the genitals can also cause pimple-like bumps. These are usually initially filled with watery fluid, which can later be mixed with pus.

To determine the cause and initiate the correct therapy, a gynecologist should be consulted. He can, for example, prescribe antibiotics, anti-virus drugs, or painkillers, or, if necessary, clear the pimple.

You might also be interested in: Boils on the labia

Labia pain

Labia pain is often extremely uncomfortable because this area is very sensitive. They can be acute or chronic and can be triggered by a variety of causes. In general, it is advisable to consult a doctor if the pain is very severe or persists for several days.

Injuries or mechanical irritation (sexual intercourse, sport, examinations at the gynecologist, underwear that is too tight) can lead to pain. Women who are prone to recurring severe pain from such stimuli suffer from vulvodynia.

Other triggers for pain can be contact allergies, e.g. from new detergents for underwear, latex (condoms) or intimate hygiene products. Here therapy is avoidance of the trigger.

Infections from viruses, bacteria or fungi can also be very painful. They can be sexually transmitted or arise from germs that naturally colonize the body and multiply strongly when the immune system is weakened. They are often accompanied by changes in the skin (blisters, redness, pimples), pus, changes in discharge and odor, burning and swelling. In some cases, however, they also have few symptoms.

Sexually transmitted infections can be avoided by using a condom. Infections should always be treated by a gynecologist.

Find out more at: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Itching of the inner labia

Itching of the inner labia can be triggered, for example, by a contact allergy (latex, detergent, underwear, intimate hygiene products). If the allergy triggers (allergens) are avoided, the symptoms usually go away.

Another trigger can be infections caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi. The fungus Candida albicans, which also causes a burning sensation, is particularly common here. Infections should be treated by a gynecologist.

Lump on the inner labia

A lump on the inner labia can occur due to the cycle. Also, blockage or infection of the glands in the inner labia (especially Bartholini's glands) can cause lumps. These are often painful.

Bumps can also result from benign tissue growth or, in very rare cases, from a malignant tumor. If the lump grows, causes pain, or does not go away after a few days, a doctor should be consulted.

Torn inner labia

The inner labia can rupture from injury or mechanical irritation. Reasons can be, for example, getting caught in a pierching or the birth process. Forced intercourse can also injure the labia minora.

Small cracks in the labia usually heal on their own, but as soon as they are a bit larger they should be treated by a doctor. They can properly disinfect the wound to prevent inflammation or prescribe pain medication. A doctor can also assess whether the tear needs to be sutured to ensure that the labia grow together properly.

Abscess on the inner labia

An abscess is a collection of pus that is encapsulated and located in a space that was not previously in the body. They can also appear on the inner labia and are particularly painful there.

Most of the time, they develop here as a result of an infection in a gland (often the BartholliniGland) by bacteria. An abscess should be treated by a gynecologist by making an incision and clearing out the pus. Painkillers, anti-inflammatories and possibly antibiotics are used as medication.

Find out more at:

  • Abscess in the genital area - what helps?
  • Bartholinitis

Swollen inner labia

Swelling of the inner labia can be triggered by many causes. Mechanical irritation (sex, sports, tight underwear) or an allergy ((latex, detergent, underwear, intimate hygiene products) can lead to swelling. This usually disappears again if the trigger is avoided.

Infections with viruses, bacteria or fungi can also cause swelling, which is then usually accompanied by other symptoms such as redness, pain, itching, burning, altered discharge or skin symptoms. An infection should always be treated by a gynecologist.

also read: Swelling at the vaginal entrance

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