A Bartholin cyst is a cyst filled with fluid that forms when a Bartholin’s gland becomes blocked. Bartholin’s glands are small organs that are located near the opening of a woman’s vagina. There are two bartholin glands, with one located on each side of the vagina’s entrance.
The glands are located under the skin and are so small that they cannot be seen or even felt when they are operating normally. They produce a fluid that lubricates the vulva, or inner area, of the labia. This fluid is secreted through tiny tubes called Bartholin ducts.
If one of these ducts becomes blocked, a Bartholin cyst can occur. It may grow to the size of a small pea or swell in size to that of a large marble. A Bartholin cyst typically remains rather small, however, and unless it becomes infected, it is usually painless.
The presence of a Bartholin cyst is generally first noticed as a small lump around the area of the vulva. There may also be an indication of its existence by some redness or swelling in the area. Although some women may discover a Bartholin cyst on their own, it will often go unnoticed unless it is detected by the gynecologist during an exam or the cyst becomes infected.
When a Bartholin cyst is infected, an abscess will occur. The abscess will generally grow bigger over a period of two to four days, and walking or sitting often becomes increasingly uncomfortable and painful. While a fever is usually not associated with the abscess, vaginal discharge can occur. This is usually more common if the infection is caused by a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Due to this possibility, it is generally recommended that a condom be worn during intercourse to lower the risk of infection.
Although a Bartholin cyst may go away on its own, if it is painful or infected, patients may seek treatment from a gynecologist or family doctor. The physician will generally prescribe an antibiotic and a nonprescription pain medication such as ibuprofen. In some cases, the doctor may drain the abscess, or the removal of the Bartholin gland and duct may be recommended if there are recurring instances of the cyst.
Home treatments for a Bartholin cyst may include soaking in a warm, shallow bath or taking a sitz bath. A sitz bath is a type of bath in which only the hips and buttocks are placed in the water. Sitz baths can usually be purchased from a medical supply store. One of the most common types is a wash basin that fits onto a toilet seat and is then filled with water.