Bartholin's cyst

The Bartholin's (BAHR-toe-linz) glands are located on each side of the vaginal opening. These glands secrete fluid that helps lubricate the vagina. Sometimes the openings of these glands become obstructed, causing fluid to back up into the gland. The result is relatively painless swelling called a Bartholin's cyst. At times, the fluid within the cyst may become infected, resulting in pus surrounded by inflamed tissue (abscess).

A Bartholin's cyst or abscess is common. Treatment of a Bartholin's cyst depends on the size of the cyst, the pain and whether the cyst is infected. Sometimes home treatment is all you need. In other cases, surgical drainage of the Bartholin's cyst is necessary. If an infection occurs, antibiotics may be helpful to treat the infected Bartholin's cyst.

Symptoms Causes Complications Prevention

If the cyst remains small and no infection occurs, you may not notice it. If it grows, you might feel the presence of a lump or mass near your vaginal opening. Although a cyst is usually painless, it can be tender.

If the cyst becomes infected — a full-blown infection can occur in a matter of days — you may experience these signs and symptoms:

  • A tender or painful lump near the vaginal opening
  • Discomfort while walking or sitting
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Fever

A cyst or abscess typically occurs on only one side of the vaginal opening.

When to see a doctor

Call your doctor if you have a painful lump near the opening of your vagina that doesn't improve after two or three days of self-care treatment — for instance, soaking the area in warm water (sitz bath). If the pain is severe, make an appointment with your doctor right away.

If you find a new lump near your vaginal opening and you're older than 40, call your doctor promptly. Although rare, such a lump may be a sign of a more serious problem, such as cancer.

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