A Bartholin gland cyst is a fluid sac in the vagina entrance. If it becomes infected, it is called an abscess.
Bartholin glands make fluid that keeps the vagina moist. The glands can become blocked and cause a backup of fluid. This fluid creates the cyst.
Bacteria or viruses can get into the trapped fluid. They can grow and cause an infection.
Things that raise the risk of Bartholin gland cyst are:
- Injury or surgery in the area
- Never having a pregnancy—or having a first pregnancy
- Sexually transmitted infections
Bartholin gland cysts do not always cause symptoms. Those that do may cause:
- A painless or tender lump on either side of the vagina opening
- A lump that may grow
- Pain and pressure with activities, such as walking or sex
The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis may be based on the exam.
The doctor may need to rule out other conditions. This may include testing fluids or tissue from the cyst. Sometimes imaging is done to look at the cyst.
Small cysts without symptoms may not need treatment. Cysts that are causing problems may be treated at home with:
- Sitz bath—sitting in a warm water bath to soften the cyst and help it drain
- Medicine to ease pain
Procedures can help drain cysts that are large or cause problems. Options are:
- Catheterization—A tube is put into the cyst to drain the fluid.
- Marsupialization—An incision is made in the cyst and stitched open—to drain fluids.
- Gland removal—less common.
Antibiotics may be needed if there is an infection caused by bacteria.
There are no known guidelines to prevent a Bartholin gland cyst.
Bartholin gland cyst and abscess. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/bartholin-gland-cyst-and-abscess . Accessed July 29, 2021.
Bartholin’s cyst. NHS Choices website. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bartholins-cyst/ . Accessed July 29, 2021.
Bartholin’s gland cyst. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/bartholins-gland-cyst/. Accessed July 29, 2021.
Omole F, Kelsey RC,et al. Bartholin duct cyst and gland abscess: office management. Am Fam Physician. 2019;99(12):760-766.
Last reviewed July 2021 by Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD
Last Updated: 7/29/2021