Bartholin's Cyst

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A Bartholin’s (BAR tho lins) cyst is a pocket of fluid that forms in the tissue surrounding the vaginal opening. Bartholin glands create fluid that lubricates the vagina. If a gland gets blocked, fluid may build up and form a cyst. If the fluid gets infected, it is called an abscess.

Bartholin’s cysts occur in about 2% of women. They are most common in women who have gone through puberty. Bartholin’s cysts are not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). They cannot be spread from person-to-person.

Causes of a Bartholin’s Cyst       

There is no way to prevent a Bartholin’s cyst from forming. Bartholin’s glands typically become blocked due to one of the following:

  • injury
  • infection
  • swelling
  • long-term irritation

Signs and Symptoms

If a Bartholin’s cyst is not infected, it might not have any symptoms. It may heal on its own. If you notice any of these symptoms, see your health care provider as soon as possible.

  • You may first notice a small, painless bump on the outer genital area. 
  • If the cyst grows, many women have pain and discomfort while sitting, standing and during sexual intercourse. 
  • If the cyst becomes infected, the bump may become hard and pain may get worse.

Your health care provider may also notice a Bartholin’s cyst during a routine pelvic exam when they look at both the inner and outer genital areas.

Treatment at Home

Applying a warm compress (warm, damp wash cloth) or taking a sitz bath may help reduce any pain or swelling if the cyst is small. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, may also help. If swelling continues to increase or if the area becomes painful, contact your health care provider.

Surgical Treatment

If the cyst continues to grow, becomes painful, becomes hard or is infected, your health care provider may need to drain it. Sometimes this can be done in the clinic or provider’s office. Other times, you may need surgery.

Marsupialization (mar su pi al i ZA shun) is the name of the surgery that is commonly done to remove a Bartholin’s cyst. This surgery is typically done if the cyst keeps coming back or if it is enlarged and hard. The cyst is cut open and fluid is drained out. The edges of the skin around the cyst are stitched in a special way so that fluid can drain out.

After Surgery

  • After surgery, the area may have gauze (medical padding) that will soak up fluid or blood. This is usually removed before you leave the hospital. Sometimes the doctor may place a Word catheter (drainage tube) in the cyst to keep it open. This helps the cyst drain as it heals. The catheter may stay in place for a few weeks. It will be removed in your health care provider’s office.
  • When you get home, it is okay to shower as usual using unscented soap. Do not scrub the area. Pat the area dry after you shower.
  • A sitz bath (a bath with only warm water) is also recommended one to two times a day, for about 10 minutes each time. This will help soak and clean the affected area.
  • If you have a surgical procedure to remove a Bartholin’s cyst, you should NOT have sex until the area is completely healed. Healing from this surgery usually takes about two weeks.
  • Your health care provider may also prescribe antibiotics (pills) to help get rid of any infection. If you are given antibiotics, take ALL the pills until they are gone, even if your symptoms and pain are going away.

When to Contact Your Health Care Provider

  • You have an increase in pain, discomfort or swelling.
  • Your condition gets worse while you are taking any prescribed medicines.

Bartholin's Cyst (PDF)

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