What is a nabothian cyst?
Nabothian cysts are tiny
cysts that form on the surface of your cervix. Your cervix connects your vagina
to your uterus. It’s sometimes called “the cervical canal.”
Nabothian cysts are filled
with mucus that is secreted by the cervical glands. Sometimes the tiny bumps
are called cervical cysts, mucinous retention cysts, or epithelial cysts.
Nabothian cysts are fairly
common. They aren’t a threat to your health, and they aren’t a sign of cervical
Causes of nabothian cysts
Nabothian cysts form when
the mucus-producing glands in your cervix are coated with skin cells and become
clogged. The skin cells plug the glands, which causes mucus to accumulate. This
causes a cyst to form on the cervix that looks like a small, white bump.
Childbirth and physical trauma to the cervix can cause nabothian cysts in some women. During childbirth, excess skin
cells can grow on the mucus gland and trap mucus, causing cysts to form.
Physical trauma around the cervix can cause excess tissue to develop on top of
mucus glands during the healing process and trap mucus, which can also cause
these cysts to occur. Cysts caused by physical trauma are especially common
during recovery from chronic cervicitis, in which cervix tissue is inflamed.
Risk factors for nabothian cysts
You’re most likely to
develop these cysts if you’re pregnant or of childbearing age (from puberty
until the onset of menopause, which in some cases can happen as late as your
40s or 50s).
You might also be at risk
for developing similar cysts if you have a condition called adenoma malignum.
This condition is a type of neoplasia that affects mucus production in your
cervix, and these cysts are often identical to nabothian cysts. Talk to your
doctor about being screened for adenoma malignum if you’re concerned that your
nabothian cyst might be a result of this condition rather than other causes.
Symptoms of nabothian cysts
Nabothian cysts range in
size from a few millimeters to 4 centimeters in diameter. They’re smooth and appear white or
yellow in color. Your doctor may notice one or more cysts during a routine
pelvic examination. These cysts don’t cause pain, discomfort, or other
symptoms, so it’s likely that your doctor will discover any cysts while
examining your cervix for other problems.
Talk to your doctor if you
have bleeding between your periods, unusual discharge, or pelvic pain. These
symptoms may indicate an infection or other abnormality that requires
Nabothian cysts can be
screened and diagnosed during a pelvic examination. They can sometimes be seen
on a pelvic ultrasound, MRI, or CT that looks at the cervix. After discovering
these small white bumps on your cervix, your doctor may break a cyst to confirm
Your doctor can also use a
colposcopy to make an accurate diagnosis. This involves magnifying the area to
distinguish nabothian cysts from other types of bumps.
Your doctor may take a
biopsy of a cyst if they suspect that you might have a type of neoplasia
affecting mucus production. This condition, called adenoma malignum, is very
rare and is not a cause for concern.
Nabothian cysts are benign
and usually don’t require treatment. In rare cases, the cysts may become large
and distort the shape and size of your cervix. If it’s severe, it can make a
routine cervical examination difficult or impossible. In this case, your doctor
may recommend removal of the cyst in order to examine your cervix.
It’s important that your
doctor perform a complete examination of the cervix during routine visits.
These examinations can ensure your reproductive health and help your doctor
identify problems with your cervix early.
Surgeries and procedures for nabothian cysts
Nabothian cysts that need
treatment can be removed through an excision or through a process called
“electrocautery ablation.” During an excision, your doctor uses a scalpel or
blade to remove the growth.
ablation, your doctor uses an electric current to remove the cyst. The electric
current produces heat that your doctor runs back and forth over the cyst. In
some cases, your doctor may drain fluid from a cyst. Your doctor may recommend
this method because of the very minimal blood loss that happens during this
Your doctor may use
cryotherapy to remove a cyst. In this procedure, your doctor uses liquid
nitrogen to freeze and shatter the cyst. This procedure is less invasive than
excision or ablation.
Talk to your doctor about
what treatment works best in your case, depending on the size and distribution
of cysts in your cervix.
Complications of nabothian cysts
There are no serious
complications of nabothian cysts. Cysts can form as a complication of a
hysterectomy, but they typically pose no serious threat to your health.
In some cases, Pap smears
can become painful or even impossible because of large cysts or having too many
cysts on the cervix. If this happens, talk to your doctor about having cysts
removed immediately so that you can continue your regular reproductive care.
In one rare case, a large
nabothian cyst was mistaken for a malignant tumor and caused a patient to be
referred to another clinic for a hysterectomy. Fortunately, the growth was
correctly identified as a nabothian cyst using ultrasonography, and the cyst
was successfully drained and removed. Neither this case nor any other case of
nabothian cysts has ever resulted in accidental or unnecessary surgeries. Even
the largest cysts can be removed and treated without causing further medical
Talk to your doctor about
specialized tests for identifying nabothian cysts if one or more cysts is
discovered during an examination.
Nabothian cysts and pregnancy
Most nabothian cysts are
discovered accidentally during routine pregnancy examinations. It is common for
these cysts to form during pregnancy.
Normally, your cervix is
open to allow your menstruation fluid to pass from your uterus to your vagina,
and for sperm to enter the uterus from the vagina. During pregnancy, the cervix
closes to keep a developing baby inside the uterus. After your child is born,
new tissue grows over the mucus glands, and in a process called metaplasia,
skin cells are produced in excessive amounts and block mucus from exiting the
glands. Over time, cysts form as mucus pools in the glands.
Talk to your doctor if
you’re concerned that you have an abnormally large cyst in your cervix while
you’re pregnant. You may notice pain during intercourse, abnormal bleeding, or discharge.
Your doctor will likely suggest an appropriate treatment if they discover a
cyst that needs to be removed.
If you don’t have any
symptoms, your doctor likely won’t recommend treatment or removal. Once your
doctor has discovered these cysts, continue to visit your gynecologist for
regular check-ups to ensure that any nabothian cysts that might grow are taken
care of before they cause problems. If your cysts are large or causing pain,
discomfort, or discharge, your doctor will suggest that you treat or remove the
cyst. In the rare case that your cyst indicates a more serious condition,
further diagnosis and treatment may take months.
Procedures for cyst
removal usually take less than a day, and you’ll recover from these minor procedures
in a matter of days, or at the very most, a few weeks.
The outlook for nabothian
cysts is extremely positive. There’s no known way to prevent nabothian cysts.
But these growths are benign and usually very small. They don't pose any short-
or long-term health threats. As long as nabothian cysts don’t hinder your
ability to live a normal life and don’t cause pain or discomfort in your cervix
or abnormal pelvic exams or Pap smears, there’s no need to worry about this
type of cyst.