Doctor's Notes on Bartholin's Cyst
A Bartholin’s cyst is a cyst (fluid-filled sac) that forms in the Bartholin’s gland near the opening of the vagina. These glands normally secrete fluid to lubricate the vagina. When one of these glands becomes blocked, fluid builds up and forms a cyst. A lump or mass near the opening f the vagina is the most common symptom. A Bartholin’s cyst is typically not a serious condition and is almost always benign (does not contain cancer). It is usually found on only one side of the vaginal opening.
In most cases, the cyst is not painful, but if it becomes infected and forms an abscess, a Bartholin’s gland cyst can be quite painful. In this case, other associated symptoms can include redness, warmth, fever, and abnormal vaginal discharge. With an abscess of a Bartholin’s gland cyst, there can also be pain with sexual intercourse and even with normal movements like walking.
Bartholin's Cyst Symptoms
- A Bartholin's cyst causes swelling of the labia on one side, near the entrance to the vagina. A cyst is usually not very painful, and significant pain suggests that an abscess has developed. However, large cysts may be painful simply by virtue of their size.
- A Bartholin's abscess causes significant pain in addition to the swelling. The swollen area is extremely tender and the skin reddened. Walking and sitting may be quite painful.
- Women with Bartholin's abscesses do not usually have fever. Vaginal discharge may be present, especially if the infection is caused by a sexually transmitted organism.
Bartholin's Cyst Causes
A Bartholin's cyst develops when the duct exiting the Bartholin's gland becomes blocked. The fluid produced by the gland then accumulates, causing the gland to swell and form a cyst. An abscess occurs when a cyst becomes infected.
Bartholin's abscesses can be caused by any of a number of bacteria. These include bacterial organisms that cause sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea as well as bacteria normally found in the intestinal tract, such as Escherichia coli. It is common for these abscesses to involve more than one type of organism.
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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.