Bartholin gland cyst symptoms, causes and treatment

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A Bartholin's gland cyst, also known as a Bartholin's gland cyst and Bartholin's duct cyst, occurs when the Bartholin's gland, one of the two glands that lubricate the vagina , fills with fluid. The glandular openings on either side of the vaginal opening can sometimes become blocked due to an infection or other cause. When this happens, the accumulation of fluid will lead to the formation of a cyst.

A Bartholin gland cyst doesn't always require treatment, but there are options if the cyst becomes painful, oversized, or infected.

Illustration by Brianna Gilmartin, Get Drug Information

Symptoms

In many cases, a Bartholin gland cyst does not cause any symptoms and can only be detected by cleaning the genitals or examining the pelvic organs . Most cysts are soft and painless and resolve on their own without any problems.

Some women may report strange pain when moving or during intercourse, while others may not see a physical lump, but experience general swelling of the vulva .

However, a cyst can become infected with bacteria and turn into a pus-filled mass called an abscess . When this happens, symptoms can include:

  • A swollen, red, and painful lump
  • Drainage of the greenish-yellow bump
  • High fever with chills
  • General pain
  • Malaise (malaise )

The bartholinic acid cyst can sometimes become too large and cause discomfort when sitting, walking, exercising, or having sex. Even if there is no infection, a cyst of this size can be painful .

Causes

Bartholin's gland cysts form when the opening of the Bartholin's gland is blocked. The Bartholin glands are located to the left and right of the vaginal opening and secrete mucus to lubricate the tissues of the vagina. If a blockage occurs, the mucus returns to the gland and forms a cyst.

The cause of the blockage is often unknown, but can include:

  • A bacterial vaginal infection, such as E. coli.
  • Thick vaginal mucus
  • Vaginal trauma
  • Sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and chlamydia .
  • Vulvovaginal surgery

About 2% of women will develop a Bartholin gland cyst at some point in their lives. It occurs most often in sexually active women between the ages of 20 and 30. The older you get, the less likely you are to develop cysts, because after age 30, the glands tend to shrink and secrete less mucus.

Diagnostics

Your healthcare provider diagnoses a Bartholin gland cyst with a pelvic exam. The healthcare professional will also ask about your medical history (including sexual history) and will take a mucus sample to check for chlamydia and gonorrhea.

If you are over 40 and have gone through (or are going through) menopause , your healthcare provider may order a biopsy to rule out vulvar cancer as the cause. A biopsy involves removing part of the cyst so that the tissue can be examined under a microscope in a laboratory.

Depending on your age and your risk for sexually transmitted infections, your doctor may also recommend a blood test for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV , and syphilis .

Watch out

If a Bartholin gland cyst is asymptomatic (without symptoms), it may not require treatment and often goes away on its own. However, if there is any change in the size or shape of the cyst, tell your doctor so that further testing can be done.

Home remedies and lifestyle

If the cyst is painful, tender, or uncomfortable, your healthcare provider may recommend taking a sitz bath several times a day for three to four days. It simply involves soaking the tissues in a warm bath to speed up drainage or help the cyst to rupture.

Never rupture a Bartholin gland cyst, as this can only increase the risk of a bacterial infection.

Medicines

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil (ibuprofen) may be recommended to relieve discomfort and inflammation.

If an abscess has formed, your doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotic such as cipro (ciprofloxacin), rocefin (ceftriaxone), zithromax (azithromycin), or doxycycline to help treat the infection.

If you have been diagnosed with chlamydia, you may receive a single oral dose of an oral antibiotic, or you will need to take a daily course of antibiotics for seven days. For gonorrhea, a single intramuscular injection of rocefin (ceftriaxone) is generally recommended. If chlamydia is not excluded, an oral dose of doxycycline (100 mg twice daily for seven days) is required.

Operations and procedures under the guidance of a specialist.

If the cyst does not resolve after home treatment, or your doctor believes intervention is necessary because the cyst is heavily infected or particularly large, surgery and other interventions may be recommended.

Treatment options include:

  • Needle aspiration: This can be done in the doctor's office and involves inserting a needle into the cyst to suck out the pus. This option is used less often because the cyst is more likely to come back.
  • Postoperative drainage : With this approach, the cyst is simply cut out and the fluid is drained. Repetition is also common with this procedure.
  • Catheter insertion : This involves inserting a balloon tip catheter (called a Word catheter) into the cyst after it has been cut and drained. The catheter is then inflated and left in place for a minimum of four weeks to form a permanent hole. With this method of treatment, recurrence of the cyst is unlikely.
  • Marsupialization: This involves making a small incision in the cyst and, after draining, suturing the edges of the incision to create a permanent drainage channel. Marsupialization is often performed under general anesthesia and is used primarily in women with recurrent cysts.
  • Excisional resection: If other surgical techniques fail, the surgeon may recommend complete removal of the gland. Even if this is the case, the remaining gland will still secrete mucus, which helps lubricate the vagina.

A newer procedure involves the use of a carbon dioxide laser, which can open the cyst and vaporize the contents of the capsule. Its use in the treatment of bartholinic acid cysts is controversial and is often avoided in abscesses .

Get the word of drug information

Bartholin's cyst is in no way life-threatening. Your cyst will most likely resolve on its own or respond well to treatment if necessary. Surgery is rarely required, but if required, it can be very effective in treating severe or recurrent cystic lesions.

While there is no way to prevent the formation of bartholinic acid cysts, practicing safe sex is believed to reduce your risk.

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