What Is It?
This cyst develops from a blockage of the Bartholin’s gland, one of two small glands on each of the vaginal kips (labia) near the opening to the vagina. During sexual arousal, the Bartholin’s gland releases a lubricating fluid. Blockage of the Bartholin’s gland results from infection or trauma. If the gland opening becomes infected or irritated, the gland may become swollen and develop into a cyst or small abscess.
Initially, you may notice tenderness, warmth or swelling near the vaginal opening. If a cyst forms, you may notice a hard, painful lump. Normally, you can’t see or feel this gland. This lump may be up to a few centimeters in size. You may feel the most pain when sitting or during intercourse, when the penis first penetrates the opening of the vagina. Pus may leak from the cyst or abscess.
A professional health care provider will need to examine you. If a red, tender lump next to the vaginal opening is observed, it may indicate an infected Bartholin’s gland cyst.
With proper care, a Bartholin’s gland cyst can clear up within a few days to a few weeks.
When you first notice mild tenderness or a small lump, use warm towel compresses to help to drain the gland and cyst and to prevent infection.
If you have mild swelling but no cyst or if you have a cyst that is soft, apply warm compresses. That may be all you need to relieve the blockage and help fight infection. Over the counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and other brand names) may help to relieve pain and calm inflammation.
If the cyst turns into a larger abscess with pus, it must be drained. This procedure can be performed in a doctor’s office. The area is numbed with a spray or small-needle injection. Using a scalpel, the doctor makes a small incision in the cyst, which releases thbe pus. The release of pressure leads to immediate pain relief. With a larger abscess, a temporary drain or packing gauze may be placed inside the healing cyst.
You may need to take antibiotics if infection spreads to the surrounding skin and genital area. Sometimes, repeated cyst infections occur. To prevent recurrent infections, you may need a special procedure that can be done in the doctor’s office. In one procedure, a small catheter is placed inside the cyst or abscess for a few weeks to allow for a new tract or duct to grow around the catheter as it heals. This allows for better drainage of the gland and prevents infection from coming back. In another procedure, called marsupialization, the doctor surgically opens the cyst and gland and sews the edges to the surrounding skin to keep it open and prevent another cyst from forming.
When To Call A Professional
If you detect an area of tenderness around the opening of the vagina and it doesn’t respond to warm compresses, or it becomes larger or more painful, make an appointment to see a health care professional. Also call a health-care professional if you develop a concurrent fever.
The chance is good that this problem will clear up quickly. A Bartholin’s gland cyst may respond to warm compresses alone within a few days. When an abscess forms that requires an incision, healing may take a few days to weeks, depending on the size of the abscess. Recurrent cysts and abscesses treated with a catheter or marsupialization may take longer to heal. These procedures, however, are highly effective at preventing infections from coming back.
Diseases and Conditions Center
All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.