A cyst is a sac filled with liquid or semi-solid stuff that forms under the skin or elsewhere on the body. Bartholin’s gland is one of two small glands on either side of the labia minora, just outside the vaginal opening. During sexual arousal, the Bartholin gland releases a lubricating fluid. A Bartholin gland cyst develops when the gland becomes clogged. The Bartholin gland can become blocked for a variety of reasons, including infection, inflammation, or prolonged irritation. You can find more information below.

What is a Bartholin’s cyst?

Bartholin’s cysts are soft painless lumps that can appear in the lubricating glands located at the opening of a woman’s vagina. If the cysts become infected, they can form a painful abscess . If you develop a lump in the area around your vagina you should consult your doctor so they can confirm a diagnosis and rule out more serious conditions.

Important information

  1. Bartholin’s glands are a pair of pea-sized glands located on either side of the lips that open into the vagina. They secrete fluid that acts as a lubricant during sex.
  2. If the opening (ducts) in the glands become blocked, they can fill with fluid and enlarge to form a soft, painless lump or Bartholin’s cyst.
  3. This usually does not cause any problems, but if it grows or becomes infected, it will form an abscess. If this happens, you may feel pain in the area when walking, sitting, or having sex.
  4. Treatment depends on the size of the cyst, how painful it is, and whether it is infected.
  5. About 1 in every 50 women will develop a Bartholin’s cyst or abscess . It is most common in sexually active women between the ages of 20 and 30.
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Bartholin’s cyst causes

Experts believe that a Bartholin’s cyst is the result of fluid backing up. Fluid can build up when the opening of the gland (duct) becomes blocked, perhaps due to infection or injury.

A Bartholin’s cyst can become infected and form an abscess. A number of bacteria can also cause such an infection, including Escherichia coli (E. coli), bacteria that cause sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea and chlamydia .

Bartholin’s cyst symptoms

If you have a small, uninfected Bartholin’s cyst, you may not notice it. If the cyst enlarges, you may feel a lump or mass near your vaginal opening. While a cyst is usually painless, it can be tender.

A full-blown infection of a Bartholin’s cyst can occur within a few days. If the cyst becomes infected, you may experience:

  • A tender, painful lump near the vaginal opening
  • Discomfort when walking or sitting
  • Pain during and after intercourse
  • Fire

A Bartholin’s cyst or abscess usually occurs on only one side of the vaginal opening.

When should you see a doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have a painful mass on the inner edge of your vagina that does not improve after two or three days of self-care. For example, you can soak the area in warm water. However, if the pain is severe, you should see your doctor immediately.

Also, if you notice a new lump near your vaginal opening and you are over 40, you should see a doctor immediately. In rare cases, such a mass may be a sign of a more serious problem, such as cancer.

Bartholin’s cyst diagnosis

To diagnose a Bartholin’s cyst, your doctor may do the following:

  • May ask questions about your medical history
  • Can do a pelvic exam
  • may take a sample of secretions from your vagina or cervix to test for a sexually transmitted infection
  • If you’re postmenopausal or over 40, they can do a biopsy to check for cancerous cells
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If cancer is suspected, your doctor may refer you to a gynecologist who specializes in female reproductive system cancers.

Bartholin’s cyst treatment

Depending on the size of the cyst or abscess and the severity of your symptoms, treatment options range from self-care and medication to drainage or surgical removal of the cyst.

Personal care

Most of the time, you don’t need any treatment, especially for uninfected cysts. If the cyst is painful, your doctor may recommend some simple self-care measures such as:

  • Soaking the cyst in warm water several times a day for three or four days using a sitz bath
  • Taking pain relievers.
  • using prescribed antibiotics regularly


If the cyst becomes infected (becomes an abscess), your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. If the abscess does not respond to antibiotics, your doctor may perform one of the following procedures.

Catheter insertion

In the treatment of Bartholin’s cyst, this procedure takes about 15 minutes and is performed under a local anaesthetic. It involves making a channel through the cyst or abscess through which the gland can flow. A small cut is made in the abscess and a small flexible tube (catheter) with a small balloon at the end is inserted to create a passage. This procedure is usually applied to women under the age of 40.

Marsupialization (surgery)

This surgery is performed under general anesthesia and takes about 10-15 minutes. The doctor makes a small cut in the abscess and gland to release the fluid and sews the edges to the surrounding skin. This keeps the cut open so it can heal and the abscess can drain out. This prevents another abscess from forming later on. The minor cut heals completely on its own.

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Excision (surgery)

This surgery involves removing the cyst or abscess under general anesthesia. It is performed so that the area can be fully examined when the cyst or abscess is removed. During excision, the entire gland is removed. This procedure is considered only in women over 40 who have had abscesses several times. As a result of excision, the gland no longer functions, which means your body will produce less oil.

This loss of lubrication can make having sex uncomfortable. You can use lubricants or vaginal moisturizers to improve lubrication. If these are not effective for you, you can talk to your doctor about whether vaginal estrogen and hormone replacement therapy is right for you.

Can a Bartholin’s cyst be prevented?

There is no way to prevent a Bartholin’s cyst. However, safer sex practices—especially using condoms—and hygiene habits will help prevent infection of a cyst and abscess formation.


This issue is usually resolved quickly. A Bartholin gland cyst may respond only to warm compresses within a few days. Once an abscess is formed that requires an incision, healing may take several days to weeks, depending on the size of the abscess. Recurrent cysts and abscesses treated with a surgical procedure may take longer to heal. However, these procedures are highly effective in preventing infections from coming back.

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