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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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Diagnosis  

You will be asked 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.

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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 advised 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.

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Prevention  

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