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Bartholin Cyst & Abscess Treatment

Bartholin's glands—which are also referred to as the greater vestibular glands or simply the Bartholin glands—are two pea-sized glands located to the left and right on the lips of the labia, posterior to the opening of the vagina. They are the source of the mucus which lubricates the vagina during sexual intercourse. Normally invisible, they can swell to the size of an orange if the tiny ducts become blocked, causing a Bartholin's cyst to develop.

A cyst, by definition, is a closed sac filled with fluid, air or debris. A Bartholin cyst will typically grow larger after sex, because the Bartholin glands produce more fluid during sex. With the fluid or mucus blocked from exiting the gland, the gland only swells further.

Given time, an untreated cyst can become infected, leading to an accumulation of pus. This condition, a Bartholin abscess, can cause women great pain and requires treatment to eliminate the infection.

If you suspect you suffer from a Bartholin cyst or abscess, it is important to seek medical guidance. To schedule a consultation with a qualified healthcare provider in that specializes in Bartholin gland cyst treatment, call (408) 946-9453 or contact us online.

Bartholin Cyst Causes

A Bartholin cyst or abscess may be caused by vaginal infections (sexual or otherwise) or injury that causes vaginal swelling. A tiny flap of skin can sometimes grow over the opening to one of the Bartholin ducts and block the normal flow of lubrication. Even thick mucus may block a Bartholin gland duct and cause a cyst or abscess.

A Bartholin gland cyst develops in only two percent of women and is more common among women in their twenties. Cysts are less likely to develop in more mature women. However, abscess fluid should be cultured and, in women over 40, a biopsy should be conducted to rule out vulvar cancer.

Bartholin's Cyst and Abscess Symptoms and Diagnosis

Some women can have a Bartholin's cyst without any initial symptoms, especially if there is minimal sexual activity and production of lubricating fluid to fill and enlarge the duct. At first, you may only notice a painless or only slightly tender round bulge on one of your vaginal lips, near the vaginal opening. Over time, it may stay the same size or grow larger. You may find it increases in size after sexual activity. It will likely grow more tender, especially if infection sets in. Once it is infected, sexual activity and even moving around or walking may quickly become excruciatingly painful.

In the case of a Bartholin's abscess, in addition to experiencing extreme pain, you may develop a high temperature or generally feel under the weather. The abscess may become hot and tender, and the extent of swelling in the vaginal area might make routine activities such as walking or sitting very difficult.

Your healthcare provider can diagnose a Bartholin's cyst or abscess with a simple physical examination. Your healthcare provider may want to test the fluid for infection.

Bartholin's Cyst and Abscess Treatment

In some cases, a small, uninfected cyst will respond to soaking in a few inches of warm water several times a day for a few days. This is commonly referred to as a sitz bath and it may allow your cyst to eventually rupture and drain with minimal discomfort.

If your Bartholin cyst does not resolve and reaches the abscess level, you should definitely seek medical attention. The course of treatment relies on several factors:

In the case of a Bartholin's gland abscess, your healthcare provider will likely recommend a course of antibiotics to treat the infection. However, if the pus accumulates to high levels, an incision and drainage (I&D) procedure may be necessary. One I&D procedure popularly performed involves making a small cut in the cyst to allow for drainage, then stitches are placed along the edge of the cyst for a small opening to form for the slight discharge to exit the cyst over the course of a few weeks.

Your healthcare provider may choose instead to make a small incision and insert a small tube or catheter into the incised cyst. The catheter may need to stay in place for up to six weeks to drain the fluid and can then be removed by your healthcare provider. The catheter is small enough to allow for normal activity, but discuss with your healthcare provider whether sexual activity is recommended. There are other less common procedures that involve using a laser. If your Bartholin gland repeatedly develops cysts or abscesses, surgical removal of the gland(s) may be necessary. That surgery can be performed on an outpatient basis.

If you notice a lump in the vaginal area, it is important to meet with a healthcare provider. Never assume a lump is only a cyst, or that the cyst will clear up on its own. Request more information about the treatment of Bartholin's cysts and abscesses today. Call (408) 946-9453 or contact us online.

Gul A. Zikria, MD, FACOG As an expert in preventive care, innovative treatment solutions, and laparoscopic surgery, board-certified OB/GYN Gul A. Zikria, MD, FACOG, is a trusted practitioner who’s been in private practice since 1985. Dr. Zikria earned his doctor of medicine from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark. He went on to complete a competitive surgical residency program at Georgetown University in Washington. Dr. Zikria then went through a comprehensive obstetrics and gynecology residency program through the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center at the Magee-Women’s Hospital. He welcomes new and existing patients to his practice in Milpitas, California.

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