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What are these raised bumps on my thighs?

Dear Alice,

Hi there, this is a question that has been on my mind for years now, and one which I've felt too embarrassed to ask even my physician because of personal reasons.

My problem is this. On my thighs there are many raised bumps. Usually, there are between five to ten of them, and some can be quite big or painful. I think they are warts of some kind but I am not sure.

They've been appearing on me randomly for about four years now, I guess, and yet I'm wondering if they are sexual in some way? I didn't lose my virginity until two years ago, yet they only appear on my inner thighs and no creams I have ever tried abate them whatsoever. Could I have been born with an odd form of genital warts? Is there a recommended cure for these annoying things? Can I alleviate this problem without the trauma of asking my physician?

For years, these things have been bugging me, and now that I am sexually active, I fear that these might be contagious. They do have slippery/oily liquid in them when they tear.

What do I do? I'm perplexed, scared. When a problem like this sends a twenty-year-old male to tears, it's definitely a problem. Are there any recorded instances of this problem? Are warts on inner thighs common?

— Bumps on the Inner Thighs

Dear Bumps on the Inner Thighs, 

Dealing with mystery bumps can be challenging, and you’re not alone in both the feelings and symptoms you’ve described.  The symptoms you’ve listed may be related to a variety of medical conditions such skin conditions, sexually transmitted infections, or ingrown hairs. Read on for more information! 

To rule out some potential causes and manage your symptoms, it may be helpful to employ some preventive strategies. Testing out some home remedies to see if they have any influence over the bumps you’re experiencing could help to rule out certain conditions. Some of these home remedies might include avoiding: 

  • Hot, humid environments, if possible 
  • Tight clothing that can cause friction against the bumps 
  • Any possible allergens (e.g., laundry detergent, body soap, perfume) that might be irritating your skin 
  • Contact with others by practicing safe sex techniques, if you choose to have sex 
  • Popping the bumps, which might spread the infection further or worsen symptoms 
  • Shaving, tweezing, or waxing the area, which might cause further symptoms 

Depending on any additional symptoms you may be experiencing, some of these conditions that might explain what you’re include: skin conditions (like contact dermatitis, hidradenitis suppurativa, or molluscum contagiosum), sexually transmitted infections (STIs) (such as genital warts), or ingrown hairs. 

You mentioned that you’ve only recently ‘lost your virginity’ two years after the symptoms began, so it’s unlikely that this may have been the cause of your bumps. However, it’s important to note that transmission of genital warts is not limited to vaginal or anal sex. It can also spread through other forms of sexual contact, like oral sex or close sexual contact with the genital area of an infected person. Studies show that HPV might also spread through non-sexual contact such as during childbirth or contact with an infected object. 

Dealing with this condition, as you’ve mentioned, can be challenging and it can be frustrating when there isn’t an answer. It’s not uncommon for people to feel embarrassed or hesitant to discuss such matters with their health care provider. However, a health care provider may be able to help with your situation by performing diagnostic tests and providing treatment, if necessary. It’s important to note that most of the medications needed to treat or manage these symptoms can typically only be obtained with a prescription from a health care provider. Over-the-counter medications may not be enough to help with your symptoms. Additionally, if left untreated, some of these conditions may lead to more serious medical conditions. 

If you do decide to speak with a health care provider, it may be helpful to think through the following questions: When did these symptoms start? Do they tend to flare up or worsen at specific times (such as when you shave, when the weather is hot or humid, when you come into contact with a substance, when you eat something, when you have sex)? Do they itch or burn or both? Is the pain you described triggered by touch or is it persistently painful? When the bumps pop, what does the liquid look like? Does the liquid have a distinct smell? Do the bumps heal after being popped, or do they remain and flare up again? What treatments have you already tried and what did they do? If you don’t feel comfortable verbally discussing this with a health care provider, you might consider alternatives such as writing an email or preparing a note to give to your health care provider before you’re examined. 

Hopefully this response helped bring you closer to understanding what you’re experiencing. Best of luck in finding a diagnosis. 

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Last updated Jan 19, 2024
Originally published Feb 08, 1996