Bartholin Gland Cyst

(Bartholin’s Cyst; Greater Vestibular Gland Cyst; Bartholin Gland Abscess)
  • Definition

    Bartholin glands are located on either side of the entrance to the vagina. A cyst is a pocket of fluid in the tissue around these glands. If the cyst becomes infected, it is called a bartholin gland abscess.
  • Causes

    Bartholin glands make fluid that lubricates the vagina. If the glands become blocked, the fluid can back up and create a cyst. Sometimes, bacteria or viruses can develop in this fluid and lead to an infection.
  • Risk Factors

    Women with a history of cysts are more likely to develop a Bartholin gland cyst.
    Sexually transmitted infections may also increase the risk of an infected cyst.
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms may include:
    • A painless or tender lump on either side of the opening of the vagina
    • A lump that may grow in size over time
    • Pain with activities such as walking or intercourse
  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a specialist.
    Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested if an infection is suspected. The sample may be sent for a culture or biopsy.
  • Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. If you do not have symptoms, your doctor may want to monitor your condition without treatment. Antibiotics may be recommended if there is an infection caused by bacteria. Pain medication may help manage discomfort.
    If your symptoms do not improve, surgery may be required. The three types of surgical options include:
    Catheterization
    A catheter is inserted into the cyst to let fluid drain out. The catheter will stay in place for four to six weeks while the fluid drains from the cyst.
    Marsupialization
    If catheterization is not effective, then an incision may be made into the cyst to allow the fluid to drain. A small opening may be left to let the fluid continue to drain.
    Gland Removal
    For some, the gland may be removed but this is less common.
  • Prevention

    There is no known way to prevent a Bartholin gland cyst.
  • RESOURCES

    American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org

    American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

    The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada http://www.sogc.org

    References

    Bartholin gland cyst. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 15, 2012. Accessed July 2, 2013.

    Bartholin’s cyst. NHS Choices website. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Bartholins-cyst/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed July 1, 2013.

    Bartholin’s gland cyst. American Academy of Family Physicians’ FamilyDoctor.org website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/bartholins-gland-cyst.html. Updated August 2010. Accessed July 2, 2013.

    Omole F, Simmons B, et al. Management of Bartholin’s duct cyst and gland abscess. Am Fam Physician. 2003 Jul;68(1):135-40. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0701/p135.html. Accessed July 2, 2013.

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