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Bartholin Cyst: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

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The Bartholin glands are two small glands located on either side of the opening of the vagina. The glands produce mucus that helps lubricate (moisten) the vagina. A Bartholin cyst occurs when a blockage happens in the openings of one of these glands, causing the mucus to build up and form a lump.

Bartholin cysts occur in about 3% of all women. Doctors typically diagnose them in women of reproductive age. The chance of developing a Bartholin cyst decreases after menopause.

Bartholin Cyst

What causes a Bartholin cyst?

Doctors do not know why some women are predisposed to getting Bartholin cysts. In rare cases, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — including chlamydia and gonorrhea — can be related to cysts.

What are the symptoms of a Bartholin cyst?

Many Bartholin cysts are small and do not cause symptoms. If a Bartholin cyst forms an abscess (infection), symptoms may include pain, change in size with swelling, drainage, redness and fever. Larger cysts that aren't infected may cause symptoms including:

  • Irritation
  • Pain during sitting, walking, or sex

How do doctors diagnose a Bartholin cyst?

To diagnose a Bartholin cyst, a doctor will do a physical exam to look at the vagina. If the cyst produces discharge, your doctor may test the fluid for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or other bacterial infections.

In women older than age 40, doctors may perform a test called a biopsy to rule out cancer of the vulva. During this test, the doctor will remove a small sample of tissue and look at it under a microscope.

What are the treatments for a Bartholin cyst?

Treatment for Bartholin cysts depends on the symptoms. If a cyst is small and doesn't appear infected, it does not need treatment. However, your doctor may recommend watching it for growth.

If the area has signs of infection and is painful, your doctor may recommend self-care treatments including sitting in a warm bath a few times a day for several days. This may help drain the cyst and relieve pain. Over-the-counter pain medications can also help ease discomfort.

If symptoms persist or the cyst grows, then you may be developing a Bartholin's abscess. Your doctor may want to drain the abscess or give you antibiotics.

Can a Bartholin cyst be prevented?

Doctors do not know why most Bartholin cysts occur, so you usually can't prevent them. You can reduce your risk of developing a cyst caused by an STI by using a condom during sex.

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