Bartholin Cyst

What is Bartholin Cyst

What is the Bartholin’s gland?

The Bartholin’s gland is a tiny organ on each of the labia (vaginal lips), near the opening of the vagina. If the vagina were the face of a clock, these glands would be found at about 4 and 8 o’clock. Normally they are invisible.

They make a small amount of fluid that lubricates the vaginal lips. If a flap of skin grows over the opening of one of the glands, the fluid backs up. It causes a round swelling called a cyst. The cyst can grow from the size of a penny to larger than an orange, although most don’t get bigger than a golf ball. Cysts can be tender.

Symptoms

How do I know if I have a Bartholins cyst?

You may notice a round, painless or slightly tender bulge in one of the vaginal lips, near the opening of the vagina. It may stay the same size or may slowly grow larger. Cysts that get infected are usually very tender. In more severe cases, walking or sexual intercourse may be painful. Your doctor will look at the area to see if you have a cyst and to find out whether it’s infected.

Causes

Are Bartholin’s gland cysts caused by an infection?

Most of the time, Bartholin’s gland cysts are not infected. In some cases, however, they can be caused by an infection, or they may become infected. Your doctor may want to check the fluid in the cyst. Most infected cysts, called abscesses (say “ab-sess-es”), contain the normal bacteria (also called germs) that are found on your skin. Some infected cysts, however, are caused by bacteria that are transmitted sexually.

Prevention

How can I prevent Bartholin’s gland cysts?

There is no way to prevent a Bartholin’s gland cyst from forming. If you think you have a Bartholin’s gland cyst, tell your doctor right away so you can get early and effective treatment.

Treatment

How are Bartholin’s gland cysts treated?

The treatment can depend on the size of the cyst, how painful it is, if it’s infected and your age. In some cases, a small cyst can be treated by soaking in a few inches of warm water (called a sitz bath) several times a day for 3 or 4 days. This allows the cyst to rupture and drain with little pain or discomfort. In other cases, the doctor can perform a minor procedure in the office. During this procedure, the doctor makes an incision and puts a small tube, called a catheter, into the cyst. The catheter stays in place for 4 to 6 weeks, draining the fluid. Then the catheter is easily taken out in the doctor’s office. If you have this catheter put in, you can go on with your normal activity, although you should talk with your doctor about sexual activity while the catheter is in place.

Another procedure that can also be done in the doctor’s office is making a small cut in the cyst to drain the fluid. Stitches are then placed at the edge of the cyst to allow a small opening to form. This procedure is called a marsupialization (say: “mar-soup-eel-eye-za-shun”). You may have light discharge for a few weeks. Panty liners should be all you need to use to take care of this discharge.

Less common procedures involve using a laser or surgically removing the entire gland. Both of these procedures are usually performed in an outpatient operating room as same-day surgery.

Will the cyst come back?

It is possible for Bartholin’s gland cysts to come back after treatment, often years later. Cysts can be treated again, and the Bartholin’s glands can be removed completely if cysts recur often.

Questions

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • I have a bump on one of my vaginal lips. Could it be a Bartholin’s gland cyst?
  • Do I need any tests, such as tests for sexually transmitted infections?
  • How serious is the cyst? Is it infected?
  • What are my treatment options? What treatment do you recommend for me?
  • Is it safe for me to have sex?

Bartholin Cyst or Abscess

A Bartholin cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms on a Bartholin gland. Bartholin glands are small glands that are found in the folds of skin (labia) on the sides of the lower opening of the vagina.

This type of cyst causes a bulge on the side of the vagina. A cyst that is not large or infected may not cause problems. However, if the fluid in the cyst becomes infected, the cyst can turn into an abscess. An abscess may cause discomfort or pain.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Take medicines only as told by your doctor.
  • If you were prescribed an antibiotic medicine, finish all of it even if you start to feel better.
  • Apply warm, wet compresses to the area or take warm, shallow baths that cover your pelvic area (sitz baths). Do this many times each day or as told by your doctor.
  • Do notsqueeze the cyst. Do notapply heavy pressure to it.
  • Do nothave sex until the cyst has gone away.
  • If your cyst or abscess was opened by your doctor, a small piece of gauze or a drain may have been placed in the area. That lets the cyst drain. Do notremove the gauze or the drain until your doctor tells you it is okay to do that.
  • Do notwear tampons. Wear feminine pads as needed for any fluid or blood.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your doctor. This is important.

Contact a doctor if:

  • Your pain, puffiness (swelling), or redness in the area of the cyst gets worse.
  • You have fluid or pus pus coming from the cyst.
  • You have a fever.

A Bartholin’s cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms on a Bartholin’s gland. Bartholin’s glands are small glands in the folds of skin around the opening of the vagina (labia). This type of cyst causes a bulge or lump near the lower opening of the vagina.

If you have a cyst that is small and not infected, you may be able to take care of it at home. If your cyst gets infected, it may cause pain and your doctor may need to drain it. An infected Bartholin’s cyst is called a Bartholin’s abscess.

Follow these instructions at home:

Medicines

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your doctor.
  • If you were prescribed an antibiotic medicine, take it as told by your doctor. Do notstop taking the antibiotic even if you start to feel better.

Managing pain and swelling

  • Try sitz baths to help with pain and swelling. A sitz bath is a warm water bath in which the water only comes up to your hips and should cover your buttocks. You may take sitz baths a few times a day.
  • Put heat on the affected area as often as needed. Use the heat source that your doctor recommends, such as a moist heat pack or a heating pad.
    • Place a towel between your skin and the heat source.
    • Leave the heat on for 20–30 minutes.
    • Remove the heat if your skin turns bright red. This is especially important if you cannot feel pain, heat, or cold. You may have a greater risk of getting burned.

General instructions

  • If your cyst or abscess was drained:
    • Follow instructions from your doctor about how to take care of your wound.
    • Use feminine pads to absorb any fluid.
  • Do notpush on or squeeze your cyst.
  • Do nothave sex until the cyst has gone away or your wound from drainage has healed.
  • Take these steps to help prevent a Bartholin’s cyst from returning, and to prevent other Bartholin’s cysts from forming:
    • Take a bath or shower once a day. Clean your vaginal area with mild soap and water when you bathe.
    • Practice safe sex to prevent STIs (sexually transmitted infections). Talk with your doctor about how to prevent STIs and which forms of birth control (contraception) may be best for you.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your doctor. This is important.

Contact a doctor if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You get redness, swelling, or pain around your cyst.
  • You have fluid, blood, pus, or a bad smell coming from your cyst.
  • You have a cyst that gets larger or comes back.

Summary

  • A Bartholins cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms on a Bartholin’s gland. These small glands are found in the folds of skin around the opening of the vagina (labia).
  • This type of cyst causes a bulge or lump near the lower opening of the vagina. An infected Bartholin’s cyst is called a Bartholin’s abscess.
  • Try sitz baths a few times a day to help with pain and swelling.
  • Do notpush on or squeeze your cyst.
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