What are Bartholin Glands?
According to ACOG, Bartholin glands are located under the skin on either side of the opening of the vagina. They release fluid that helps with lubrication during sexual intercourse. If the Bartholin glands become blocked, a cyst can form, causing a swollen bump near the opening of the vagina.
What are Bartholin gland cysts?
Acog.org states Bartholin gland cysts are usually painless until they become infected, when they can form an abscess. If the cyst is not causing pain, it can be treated at home by sitting in a warm shallow bath or by applying a warm compress on it. If an abscess has formed, treatment can involve draining the cyst using a needle or other instrument in a health care provider’s office.
Bartholin Cyst Symptoms
If the cyst is not infected, you may not even notice it. It’s only when the Bartholin gland cyst grows large enough that you feel the mass or growth near the opening of the vagina. The cyst can become an infection quite rapidly (within a couple days), causing some of the following symptoms:
- A tender and/or painful growth near the vaginal opening
- Discomfort while sitting or walking
- Painful sex
Bartholin cysts are typically diagnosed by your physician during a pelvic exam. If the cyst has not reduced in size or pain within a couple days, it is suggested to see your OB/GYN for treatment and symptom relief options. Soaking in a warm shallow bath can help but if the infection has already developed, it is time to seek your doctor’s help.
If you notice a lump near the opening of the vagina and you are older than 40, this can mean something more serious like cancer.
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TreatmentTreatment usually involves at home care that includes warm baths or warm compresses. A procedure may be needed to drain the cyst, especially if an abscess has formed. Treatment options:
- Sitz baths. Soak in a bathtub a few times a day for several days. This may help the cyst rupture and drain on its own.
- Surgical drainage. Surgery may be required if the cyst is quite large using a local anesthetic or sedation.
- Antibiotics. Medication may not be needed if the abscess is drained correctly. Antibiotics can help with an infection or if testing reveals an STI.
- Marsupialization. This is a procedure when a doctor puts stitches on each side of a drainage incision to create a permanent opening. A catheter is inserted can also be placed here for a few days to promote drainage and future recurrences.