What is a Bartholin gland cyst?
— A Bartholin gland cyst is a small sac of fluid that forms when the opening of a Bartholin gland is blocked. All women and girls have 2 Bartholin glands just below the opening of the vagina.
The Bartholin glands make small amounts of fluid. The fluid helps keep the vulva moist. (The vulva is the area around the opening of the vagina that includes the labia.) If something blocks the opening of a Bartholin gland, fluid can build up and form a cyst. This usually happens in just one gland, not both at once.
What are the symptoms of a Bartholin gland cyst?
— Most women notice a lump in the vulva, but Bartholin gland cysts often do not cause any other symptoms. If they do, the main symptoms are pain or discomfort when a woman walks, sits, or has sex.
If a Bartholin gland cyst gets infected, it can form an abscess. An abscess is a pocket of pus that can cause a lump to form on the vulva. Symptoms of an abscess include:
●Severe pain – It might be painful to walk. You also might not be able to sit or have sex.
Should I see a doctor or nurse?
— See your doctor or nurse if:
●You see or feel a lump in the vulva.
●It is painful to walk, sit, or have sex.
Will I need tests?
— Maybe. If you have an abscess, the doctor or nurse will send a small sample of the pus to a lab for testing. This can show what type of germ caused the infection. You might need antibiotics for an infection caused by certain germs.
If you are older than 40, the doctor or nurse might do a test called a “biopsy” to check for cancer. (Cancer in a Bartholin gland is rare, but it can happen.) In this test, the doctor takes a small sample of tissue from the area. Then he or she sends the tissue to a lab. Another doctor looks at it under a microscope to check for cancer.
How is a Bartholin gland cyst treated?
— Treatment depends on your age and whether the cyst is causing symptoms. If you do not have symptoms, you might not need any treatment. Otherwise, treatments can include:
●Draining the cyst or abscess
– In this procedure, the doctor cuts a small hole to let fluid or pus out. Then he or she puts a tiny balloon in the hole to keep it from closing completely. The balloon is connected to a tiny tube called a “catheter” that helps fluid drain from the Bartholin gland. The doctor takes the balloon out in about 1 month. It leaves a small opening where fluid can drain. This procedure is often done in a doctor’s office. But if you have a large or deep abscess, you might need treatment in the hospital.
Antibiotics are usually not needed. But you might get them in some cases, like if you have had an abscess before or are at high risk of the infection spreading.
●Surgery – Doctors can do this if draining fluid and putting in a balloon does not work well. A doctor can make a new opening to help the Bartholin gland drain fluid. Or he or she can remove the gland and any cyst or abscess. But surgery has a higher risk of side effects than other treatments, so doctors don’t do it as often.