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.
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.
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.
Symptoms may include:
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.
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:
A catheter is inserted into the cyst to let fluid drain out. The catheter will stay in place 4-6 weeks while the fluid drains from the cyst.
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.
For some, the gland may be removed but this is less common.
There is no known way to prevent a Bartholin gland cyst.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Bartholin gland cyst and abscess. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 15, 2013. Accessed September 3, 2014.
Bartholin’s cyst. NHS Choices website. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Bartholins-cyst/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed September 3, 2014.
Bartholin’s gland cyst.American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/bartholins-gland-cyst.html. Updated February 2014. Accessed September 3, 2014.
Omole F, Simmons B, Hacker Y. Management of Bartholin’s duct cyst and gland abscess. Am Fam Physician. 2003;68(1):135-140.
Last reviewed September 2015 by James Cornell, MD Last Updated: 9/3/2014