Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
What is the Bartholin's
The Bartholin's gland is a tiny organ on each of
the labia (vaginal lips), near the opening of the vagina. If the vagina were the
face of a clock, these glands would be found at about 4 and 8 o'clock. Normally
they are invisible. They make a small amount of fluid that lubricates the
vaginal lips. If a flap of skin grows over the opening of one of the glands, the
fluid backs up. It causes a round swelling called a cyst (say "sis-st"). The
cyst can grow from the size of a penny to larger than an orange, although most
don't get bigger than a golf ball. They can be tender.
Are Bartholin's gland cysts caused
by an infection?
Most of the time, Bartholin's gland cysts are
not infected. In some cases, however, they can be caused by an infection, or
they may become infected. Your doctor may want to check the fluid in the cyst.
Most infected cysts, called abscesses (say "ab-sess-es"), contain the normal
bacteria that are found on your skin. Some infected cysts, however, are caused
by sexually transmitted bacteria (germs).
How do I know if I have a
Bartholin's gland cyst?
You may notice a round, painless or slightly
tender bulge in one of the vaginal lips, near the opening of the vagina. It may
stay the same size or may slowly grow larger. Cysts that get infected are
usually very tender. In extreme cases, walking may be painful. Your doctor will
look at the area to see if you have a cyst and to find out if it's infected.
How are Bartholin's gland cysts
The treatment can depend on one or more of these
factors: the size of the cyst, how painful it is, if it's infected and your age.
In some cases, a small cyst can just be watched over time to see if it grows. In
other cases, the doctor can perform a minor procedure in the office. In this
procedure, the doctor puts a small tube, called a Word catheter, into the cyst.
The catheter stays in place for 2 to 4 weeks, draining the fluid and causing a
normal gland opening to form. Then the catheter is easily taken out in the
doctor's office. If you have this catheter put in, you can go on with your
normal activity, although having sex would be uncomfortable while the catheter
is in place.
Another treatment that can also be done in the
doctor's office is making a small cut in the cyst to drain the fluid. Stitches
are then placed at the edge of the cyst to allow a small opening to form. This
procedure is called a marsupialization (say "mar-soup-eel-eye-za-shun"). You may
have light discharge for a few weeks. Panty liners should be all you need to use
to take care of this discharge.
Less common procedures involve using a laser or
removing the entire gland surgically. Both of these procedures are usually
performed in an outpatient operating room as same-day surgery.
Will the cyst come back?
Bartholin's gland cysts hardly ever come back
after treatment. Sometimes a cyst will come back years later. It can be treated
How can I prevent Bartholin's gland
These cysts seem to be more of a case of "bad
luck" than anything else. It's very hard to keep them from happening. If you
think you have a Bartholin's gland cyst, tell your doctor right away so you can
get early and effective treatment.