Lahey Health is now part of Beth Israel Lahey Health.  Explore Lahey locations below or reach Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, Beverly Hospital and Winchester Hospital.

Definition

Bartholin glands are on either side of the entrance to the vagina. A pocket of fluid can develop around these glands. The pocket is called a cyst. If it becomes infected, it is called an abscess.

Causes

Bartholin glands make fluid that lubricates the vagina. The glands can become blocked and cause a backup of fluid. This fluid creates the cyst.

Bacteria or viruses can get into the trapped fluid. It is an easy place for them to grow and create an infection.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase the risk of Bartholin gland cyst include:

  • Previous cysts
  • Sexually transmitted infections

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

You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may be able to make a diagnosis based on the exam.

The doctor may need to rule out other conditions. This may include testing fluids or tissue from the cyst.

Treatment

Small cysts that are not causing symptoms may not need treatment. Cysts that are causing problems may be treated at home with:

  • Sitz bath—sitting in warm water bath that is just few inches deep. It can soften the cyst and encourage it to drain.
  • Pain medicine—often over-the-counter pills.

Large or more bothersome cysts may need a procedure to help it drain. Options include:

  • Catheterization—A tube is inserted into the cyst. It will stay in place for 4 to 6 weeks while the fluid drains.
  • Marsupialization—An incision is made in the cyst. Stitches will help to keep the cut open. Fluids will drain over the next few weeks.
  • Gland removal—this is a less common option.

Antibiotics may be needed if there is an infection caused by bacteria.

Prevention

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

RESOURCES

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

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

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Health Canada  https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada.html 

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

References

Bartholin gland cyst and abscess. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113909/Bartholin-gland-cyst-and-abscess  . Updated August 2, 2018. Accessed February 12, 2019.

Bartholin’s cyst. NHS Choices website. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Bartholins-cyst/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Updated April 9, 2015. Accessed February 12, 2019.

Bartholin’s gland cyst. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/bartholins-gland-cyst.html. Updated July 2017. Accessed February 12, 2019.

Omole F, Simmons B, Hacker Y. Management of Bartholin’s duct cyst and gland abscess. Am Fam Physician. 2003;68(1):135-140.

Revision Information