Bartholin’s cysts are vaginal cysts formed on either side of the vagina just inside the opening. Read the article to know more about it.
Bartholin’s glands are a pair of glands present on either side of the vaginal opening. These glands are about the size of a pea. They are responsible for making the fluid that keeps the vagina moist, which helps to reduce friction during sex. The glands on either side of the vaginal opening make a small amount of mucus-like fluid. This fluid from each gland drains down a short tube or duct called Bartholin’s gland duct. Each duct is about 2 cm long and comes towards the opening of the vagina. Unless these glands are infected or swollen, they are not visible through the naked eye.
Bartholin’s cyst is a small fluid-filled sac present inside the opening of a woman's vagina. It is a firm and tender mass. It is also called Bartholin’s duct cyst.
Bartholin’s cysts are harmless. They are almost always benign and non-cancerous.
Bartholin’s glands make a small amount of mucus-like fluid. This fluid drains through the duct or tube. If the tube or the duct gets blocked, then a fluid-filled swelling called a cyst develops. The size of the cyst varies from small pea size to a golf-ball size or can be even bigger in certain cases. The cyst may remain the same or slowly and eventually grow bigger. The reason for the duct getting blocked is still unknown.
Usually, Bartholin’s cyst does not cause any symptoms. Since Bartholin’s glands are not visible through the naked eye, you will not realize if you have a Bartholin’s cyst as it does not show any symptoms.
When symptoms occur, it exhibits the following:
A painless small lump at the opening of the vagina.
Redness near the opening of the vagina.
You will have discomfort during intercourse, walking, or while sitting.
The doctor will typically diagnose a Bartholin’s cyst after evaluating the patient’s medical history and after performing a pelvic examination. If the cyst is infected, then the doctor may take a sample of the vaginal secretions to determine if a sexually transmitted disease is present.
A Barthloin’s cyst may not require any treatment if it is small and if it does not cause any symptoms. If the cyst causes any symptoms, then seek treatment. When the cyst is large, then you may need surgery to get the cyst removed. The doctor may make small slits or openings to drain the fluid. Doctors may also perform marsupialization in which small openings are made to drain the fluid and prevent the formation of a cyst. If the cysts reoccur, then the doctor may surgically remove the gland.
You can treat Bartholin’s cyst at home by sitting in a warm bath a few times a day or by applying a warm moist compress which will help to drain the fluid from the cyst. Although in certain cases, home care can be sufficient to treat the cyst, seeking the help of a healthcare provider is always recommended so as to treat it promptly and prevent complications.
When you get recurrent infections, or when you are above the age of 40 years or postmenopausal, and if you develop a cyst, then you need to see the doctor. The doctor may perform a biopsy to determine if those are cancer cells.
Bartholin’s cyst cannot be prevented from developing, but the complications can be prevented. You can use a contraceptive device or a barrier method during sex, and practicing good hygiene may also help prevent the infection of the cyst.
The infectious agents do not cause Bartholin’s cyst. If the bacteria or any infectious agents enter the fluid in the cyst after they are formed, then cysts can become an abscess. So basically, when Bartholin’s glands get infected, then a Bartholin abscess is formed. It can be more than an inch in diameter. It is usually painful. Most people with Bartholin's abscess recover completely, but in certain cases, the cyst will return and get re-infected again.
There is certain data saying that bacteria such as E.coli and bacteria causing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as Chlamydia or Gonorrhea may cause infections that lead to the formation of Bartholin’s abscess.
Bartholin’s abscess may often cause pain during any activity that causes pressure on that area. Activities like walking, sitting down, or sexual intercourse.
You are likely to have a fever.
The area of the abscess will be red, swollen, and warm to the touch.
The doctor will diagnose Bartholin’s abscess after a physical examination. They may also take a sample from the area to check if it is a sexually transmitted disease (STDs). If any sexually transmitted disease is detected, then it has to be treated along with Bartholin's abscess.
Bartholin’s abscess cannot be treated at home. You need to see the doctor drain the fluid from the cyst through surgery. If Bartholin’s abscess recurs, then the removal of the entire Bartholin’s glands will be recommended.
If the Bartholin’s abscess is left untreated, then it can worsen, and the infection spreads to other parts of the body. If the infection spreads to the bloodstream, then it is called septicemia. Septicemia is dangerous as the infection can spread to the entire body.
There is no proven way to prevent the formation of Bartholin’s abscess. But practices like safe sex, use of contraceptive devices, and good hygiene can keep the bacteria away from the area, which will prevent the infection. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, and most importantly, do not hold too long to urinate.
Bartholin’s cyst is a rare condition. In certain cases, there is no treatment required as it shows no symptoms. However, it cannot be prevented from developing. But maintaining good hygiene and having safe sex can prevent the risks and complications.
In case of recurrence of the cysts, or if the cyst is large, the doctor may remove the gland surgically. To drain the fluid, the doctor may create small slits or openings. If required, they may also perform marsupialization, which involves making small openings in the skin to drain fluid and prevent the formation of a cyst.
If proper treatment is given, it may take about two to six weeks for the Bartholin cysts to completely heal.
Bartholin cysts appear as round bumps beneath the skin on the vaginal lips (labia). They are frequently painless. If an infection occurs, some may become tender, red, and swollen. Other Bartholin cysts may appear filled with pus or fluid.
The Bartholin’s glands can be located on either side of the opening of the vagina. These glands secrete a fluid from small ducts or openings that aid in vaginal lubrication. Sometimes, a backup of fluid occurs, and the ducts become blocked. This may occur as a result of an injury or irritation or as a result of excessive skin growth. In some cases, an infection can result in the formation of a cyst. Escherichia coli and bacteria that cause gonorrhea or chlamydia are examples of bacteria that can potentially infect a cyst.
According to the British Medical Journal, Bartholin’s cysts are found in about 2 % of women seeking gynecological care in the United States.
When the cyst is present, it is advised not to engage in penetrative masturbation, and after surgery, penetration should be avoided for at least two weeks. Clitoral stimulation should be considered acceptable as long as it does not cause pain.
The larger the size of Bartholin's cyst, the more painful it is. You may become fatigued quickly and require pain medication for a week or two. It could take two to four weeks for you to fully recover.
The Bartholin’s gland secretes lubricating fluid during sexual arousal. As the ducts are blocked in a Bartholin’s cyst, the release of fluid on arousal causes enlargement and pain in the cyst.
If a Bartholin cyst ruptures, it may heal on its own in a matter of days. However, it is recommended to see a doctor to avoid the spread of the infection. Typically, your doctor will advise you to soak your labia in warm water (sitz bath) and will prescribe antibiotics and pain relievers.
If a Bartholin’s abscess is not treated, it worsens, and the infection may spread to other organs in your body. Septicemia occurs when an infection enters your bloodstream. This is a dangerous condition because the infection can spread throughout your body.
This infection is frequently a result of irritation caused by shaving or waxing pubic hair. However, shaving can cause Bartholin’s cyst only if razors contaminated with the organisms that cause the cyst are used.
Stress is not known to be a cause of Bartholin’s cyst.
Bartholin cysts can heal on their own. If there is an infection, it may need to be treated by a medical professional.
If a cyst is causing symptoms, it can be treated. A Bartholin’s abscess almost always necessitates treatment because it can be excruciatingly painful. However, if an abscess is left untreated for an extended period of time, it is likely to burst and then resolve.
Soaking in inches of a warm water bath, with or without Epsom salt, can help the cyst heal. You can soak your genitals in a regular tub or a sitz bath, which is a basin that you can place over your toilet seat.
Bartholin gland abscesses typically develop over two to four days and usually burst and drain after four to five days.
Last reviewed at:
26 Apr 2022 - 4 min read
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