Bartholin’s Cyst

What is a Bartholin’s Cyst?

Bartholin’s cyst is also called Bartholin’s abscess or Bartholin gland cyst. No matter what it’s called, men do not have to worry about it. Bartholin’s cyst is a fluid-filled swelling in the vaginal lips that can swell up in size from a penny to an orange. The good news is that they are usually painless unless they swell up to orange size which indicates infection. Any painful cyst in the vagina needs prompt medical attention. Bartholin’s gland cysts can be caused through sexual intercourse but also can be caused by injury to the vaginal lips. Sometimes the Bartholin gland can become blocked for unknown reasons.

What are the Symptoms of Bartholin’s Cyst?

The main symptom of Bartholin’s cyst is a bulge in the vaginal lip or lips that may or may not become painful. It’s often seen near the opening of the vagina. If the lump occurs when the woman also has a fever, it could be a sign of infection in the Bartholin’s gland and so needs treatment by a doctor at once. Sometimes Bartholin’s cysts grow so large that sexual intercourse, walking or even sitting down can be difficult and painful.

Bartholin’s Cyst Causes

A Bartholin’s cyst is a blockage of the glands on each side of a woman’s vagina. Ordinarily, these glands secrete the liquids that lubricate the vagina. In some cases, the openings to these glands become clogged, allowing them to become inflamed, causing a relatively painless swelling called a Bartholin’s cyst. If this fluid becomes infected, pus can form and surround the inflamed tissue. A Bartholin’s cyst is rather common, with the treatment depending largely on how developed the swelling and the presence of infection and pain is. In minor cases, a simple home treatment is available. In more serious cases, a surgical drainage might be necessary. If there is an infection, antibiotics might be needed. Although the cause of a Bartholin’s cyst is not known, it could have its roots in an infection caused by bacteria or physical injury. A Bartholin’s cyst typically occurs on only one side of the vaginal opening.

How is a Bartholin’s Cyst Treated?

Sometimes the cyst will go away after two or three days. If not, go see a doctor.

Treatment includes

Taking a sitz bath several times a day in warm plain water helps reduce pain. Sometimes the cyst may rupture while taking a sitz bath. This is normal, but should be checked by a doctor for signs of infection. He or she will drain the cyst and may place a catheter in the incised area for it to completely drain or stitch up the incision. These are usually in-office procedures done under local anesthesia. In bad cases, the entire Bartholin’s gland may need to be surgically removed at a hospital. Antibiotics may be prescribed to combat infection.

Bartholin’s cysts can come back unless the gland has been removed.

WARNING: Any suddenly appearing vaginal lump in women over 40 years old could be a symptom of cancer. Go to a doctor or gynecologist as soon as possible to rule out cancer as the cause of the lump.

Bartholin’s Cyst Prevention

Since it is so difficult to narrow down a particular cause of a Bartholin’s cyst, the only practical preventive measure is to monitor your overall health, particularly when it comes to bacteria that might affect your vagina. This includes, in particular, Escherichia coli (E. coli) and other bacteria that can cause sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. If you notice anything different in your vaginal area, particularly a painful lump near the opening, discomfort while sitting or walking, pain during intercourse, or a fever, you would do well to contact your physician for an examination. Your physician can drain the gland and might prescribe antibiotics to treat the problem. If you are over 40 and the pain in the lump does not subside, you should contact your doctor immediately since it can be a sign of something worse, such as cancer.

Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
March 30, 2018