Bartholin Cyst Definition:- This type of cyst is a fluid or mucus filled abscess which forms when the duct of the Bartholin gland gets obstructed.
Understanding a Bartholin cyst
The Bartholin glands are located at the either sides of the entrance of the vagina. They are tiny and cannot be seen upfront. Their main function is to discharge fluid into the mucosal surface of the labia i.e. the lip type skin construction surrounding the vagina or simply lubricating the vagina upon stimulation. They also help in aiding sexual intercourse by decreasing friction. The fluid released by these glands, which are also called the vestibular glands, then travels down tiny ducts called Bartholin ducts which are approximately 2 centimetres long into the inferior part of the entry of the vagina.
At times, the duct of the Bartholin glands get obstructed resulting in the mucus or fluid retention in the gland which ultimately leads to the formation of cysts called Bartholin cysts. If the fluid within the cyst gets infected, you can develop pus formation surrounded by inflamed tissues resulting in Bartholin abscess formation.
Size of a Bartholin Cyst
There is no fixed size up to which a Bartholin cyst can grow. These cysts can range anywhere from the size of a pea to as large as the size of a cherry. They can grow up to 0.5 to 1 inch in diameter and the size often increases very gradually.
Symptoms of Bartholin Cysts
There can be times when a Bartholin cyst grows and shows no symptoms at all. It is absolutely normal for a woman to have this cyst and be completely unaware of its presence. These cysts mostly go unnoticed; however there are a few symptoms that can be observed in some cases, especially when the cyst is large:
- A lump on the labia or lip like structure covering the vagina
- Pain in the vulva during running, walking, jogging or sexual intercourse
- Development of pus inside the cyst causing infection and formation of abscess
- Fever resulting from infection
- Tenderness and redness of the skin surrounding the Bartholin glands and the cyst
- Warm feeling in the affected area
- Swelling in the area of the vulva
- Frequent chills
- Oozing liquid from the cyst
Bartholin Cyst Causes
The main cause of the formation of a Bartholin cyst is the obstruction of the Bartholin glands. These glands are very essential as they lubricate the vagina and help in reducing friction during sexual intercourse. The blockade of the canal of these glands causes fluid to build up in the gland causing a cyst to form and increase in pressure on the surrounding area. If bacteria get into the cyst, it causes infection and swelling resulting in the formation of a Bartholin abscess. The abscess can break open the skin and become very painful.
As per doctors, bacterial strands like E.coli and sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhoea and chlamydia contribute to the infection of Bartholin cysts forming Bartholin abscess.
Which doctor do you need to consult for a Bartholin Cyst?
Doctors who specialize in the study of female reproductive system, female genital organs and bartholin cysts are called gynaecologists. If you doubt that you have a bartholin cyst on either side or both sides of your vagina, then you must consult a Gynaecologist for diagnosis and treatment.
When to see a doctor?
If you are experiencing any of the following issues, then you must consult a doctor immediately:
- Extremely painful lump that is not going away after few days of self-care and treatment
- Formation of more than one lumps immediately one after the other
- High fever and pus drainage from the cyst
- Unexplained bleeding
Symptoms like severe pain and formation of more than one lump can signify something serious if your age is more than 40 years.
Diagnosis of Bartholin Cysts
To conclude if you have a Bartholin cyst or not, your doctor may do the following:
- Perform a thorough physical examination of your vagina to check for lumps that can lead to the formation of an abscess
- Ask questions related to your medical history
- Perform a pelvic examination
- Test samples of your vaginal swab for sexually transmitted diseases and infections
- Carry out biopsy of the Bartholin cyst in order to determine the presence of cancerous cells if your age is more than 40 years or you are post-menopausal, though cancer of the Bartholin glands is extremely rare
To-do list before you go for an appointment
Your first appointment can happen at your general physician’s or gynaecologist’s clinic. In order to prepare well for your appointment, here are few things that you can do:
- Prepare a list of your symptoms including those that may not be related to your cyst
- List down all the medicines and supplements that you had been prescribed in the past or are consuming at present
- Prepare a list of questions that you may want to ask your doctor during the session. Some of them can be:
- What kind of tests will I be required to undergo?
- How will the cyst do away?
- How much time will it take to go away after treatment?
- Is there any self-treatment for the cyst?
- Will it regrow?
- Should I restrain from having sex until the cyst goes away?
- Will there be any issues during childbirth?
- Be ready to answer the following questions that your doctor may ask you:
- When did you first discover the cyst?
- Were you facing any other symptoms also?
- Is your cyst painful?
- Does the cyst ooze liquid?
- Do you feel pain while sitting or walking?
Complications associated with Bartholin Cysts
A common complication associated with Bartholin cysts is the recurrence which may require treatment again.
Another complication can be the spread of the Bartholin abscess infection to other organs of the body if it becomes severe. The infection may move in your bloodstream causing septicaemia which requires immediate medical attention and even hospitalization in case of high fever up to 103 degrees and above.
Bartholin Cyst Treatment
In most of the cases, the Bartholin cyst does not require any treatment at all and goes away on its own, especially when it is asymptomatic in nature. If the cyst is large and is accompanied by symptoms like severe pain and infection, then treatment may be required. However, the treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms, size of the cyst and extent of the infection. The treatment options are:
Surgical drainage :- If the cyst is extremely large and severely infection, it may require drainage. A surgery will be performed and drainage of the cyst will be conducted under local anaesthesia or strong sedation.
The doctor will make a small cut in the cyst and allow the excess fluid to drain. Once the drainage is done, the doctor will insert a small rubber pipe inside the cut and allow it to stay there for at the most six to seven weeks so that complete drainage takes place.
Antibiotics :- The doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics for infection or sexually transmitted diseases that are found during testing.
Marsupialization :- This procedure comes handy when the cyst grows again. The doctor creates stitches on each side of the drainage cut to create permanent openings less than 7 millimetres long. A catheter is then inserted to allow drainage for a few weeks for completely recovery.
If none of the treatment methods mentioned above are helpful and the cyst refuses to leave, the doctor may recommend removal of the Bartholin gland. The surgery for removal is also performed under anaesthesia and is accompanied with complications like heavy bleeding. Hence, removal of the Bartholin gland is the last resort.
Bartholin Cyst Home Remedies
In case of Bartholin cysts, some natural treatments can be used to eradicate the jam in the Bartholin gland and remove the cyst. They are:
- Warm water bath :- Soaking or sitting in a tub filled with warm water atleast three to four times a day can be helpful in preventing infections and providing relief from pain and inflammation. It is also very helpful in causing the cyst to break open on its own and dissolve.
- Tea tree oil :- Powerful antiseptic and anti-microbial, tea tree oil is highly effective in preventing infections and reducing pain and inflammation. Applying few drops of tea tree oil mixed with coconut oil can help. It is especially very effective in the treatment of sebaceous cyst.
- Vitamin C and D :- Vitamin C and D help in firming the immune system and allow it to fight deadly bacteria and virus. They are very useful in the treatment of Bartholin cyst, especially in the prevention of infections.
- Probiotics :- Oral probiotics capsules and probiotic drinks are very effective in balancing body nutrients and fighting off bacteria to get rid of infections and prevent the formation of Bartholin abscess.
- Post-operative care :- If you have undergone a surgery for the drainage of the Bartholin cyst, you must take proper rest in order to let the cut heal completely. Give it time to recover and take your medicines on time.
Bartholin Cyst Prevention
There is no set prevention method to prevent Bartholin cysts from occurring, however some safety measures that help in prevention from infections that can be deadly. They are:
- Using of condom during sex
- Maintaining a good hygiene
- Keeping the affected area clean and dry
- Preserving a healthy urinary tract
- Drinking plenty of fluids
Bartholin Cyst Pictures
Glance through these pictures of Bartholin cysts to understand the look and feel of it.
Image : A Bartholin cyst in a healthy female
Image 2 : Position of the Bartholin gland in females