What is a
A Bartholin's cyst is a fluid-filled swelling on one of the Bartholin’s
glands. The Bartholin’s glands are on each side of the opening of the vagina,
on the lips of the labia. They secrete vaginal lubricating fluid. The fluid
helps protect vaginal tissue during sexual intercourse.
These cysts aren’t common and usually develop in women of
reproductive age after puberty and before menopause. About 2 percent of
women will develop a Bartholin’s cyst in their lifetime.
What are the symptoms of a Bartholin’s cyst?
Bartholin’s cysts can be about the size of a pea to as large
as a marble, or from about 0.2 to 1 inch in diameter. They usually grow slowly.
Small Bartholin’s cysts may not cause any symptoms. Since you
can’t usually feel the Bartholin’s glands, you may not realize you have a small
cyst if you don’t have symptoms.
When symptoms do occur, they usually include the following:
- a painless, small lump near the opening of the
- redness near opening of the vagina
- swelling near the opening of the vagina
- discomfort during sexual intercourse, walking,
If the cyst becomes infected, additional symptoms can
develop. These include pus draining from the cyst, fever, and chills. When a
cyst is infected, it’s referred to as an abscess.
Causes and risk factors
The Bartholin’s glands contain small ducts, or openings,
that allow fluid to flow out. The main cause of a cyst is the backup of fluid that
occurs when the ducts become blocked. The ducts may become blocked due to an
injury or irritation, or an extra growth of skin.
In some instances, an infection can lead to the growth of a
cyst. Bacteria that can infect a cyst include Escherichia coli and bacteria that cause gonorrhea or chlamydia.
Although women of any age can develop the cyst, it’s more common in women of
reproductive age, especially between the ages of 20 and 29 years old.
is a Bartholin’s cyst diagnosed?
Doctors can typically diagnose a Bartholin’s cyst after
evaluating a medical history and performing a pelvic exam. If you have an
infected cyst, your doctor may need to take a sample of vaginal secretions to
determine if a sexually transmitted disease is present. If you’re over 40 or
postmenopausal, your doctor may take a biopsy to check for cancerous cells.
is a Bartholin’s cyst treated?
A Bartholin’s cyst may not require treatment if it’s small
and doesn’t cause any symptoms. If the cyst does cause symptoms, you should get
treatment for it.
Sitting in a warm bath a few times per day or applying a
moist, warm compress can encourage the fluid to drain from the cyst. In many
cases, home care may be enough to treat the cyst.
If the cyst is painful, you can take over-the-counter
medications such as acetaminophen to reduce pain and discomfort. If the cyst
becomes infected, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics.
Your doctor can use a few different methods to treat a
- If the cyst is large and causes symptoms, they
can make a small slit to allow the fluid to drain. They can do this in the
office and give you a local anesthetic to numb the area.
- For large, symptomatic, reoccurring cysts, your doctor
can insert a small tube into the cyst and leave it in place for a few weeks.
The tube allows the fluid in the cyst to drain and helps the duct stay open.
- Your doctor can also perform marsupialization.
The procedure involves making small, permanent slits or openings, which help
the fluid drain and prevent the cysts from forming.
- If cysts continue to reoccur and other methods
of treatment aren’t working, your doctor can surgically remove the gland. This
procedure is rare.
prevent a Bartholin’s cyst from developing. Safe sex practices, such as using a
condom, and good hygiene may help prevent the cyst from becoming infected.
What is the outlook?
Cysts on the Bartholin’s gland are rare. If they do
develop, they’re easy to treat. Some cysts are so small they don’t even cause
symptoms, and it’s sometimes possible to treat them at home.
Recurring infections may need more intensive
treatment. See your doctor for treatment if infections do recur. If you’re over
40 or postmenopausal and you develop a cyst, you should see your doctor. Your
doctor may need to perform a biopsy to determine whether or not the cells are