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HealthInfo Canterbury

Bartholin's cysts & vulval lumps

vulval lumps Different sorts of lumps on parts of your vulva are relatively common. They all have different causes and different names.

A blocked or infected hair follicle is called folliculitis. It can happen anywhere that pubic hair would normally grow. It's common, not usually serious, and usually gets better without treatment.

A lump on your labia majora (outer lips) is a labial abscess. This is caused by an infection (not sexually transmitted) and can be treated with antibiotics, or the pus can be drained.

Genital warts are skin-coloured and can be anywhere around your anus (bottom) or genitals. They are often in groups. They are caused by the human papilloma virus and can be treated, but treatment will not get rid of the infection and they may flare up again.

A Bartholin's cyst is found on either side of the entrance to your vagina, towards your anus.

What is a Bartholin's cyst?

A Bartholin's cyst is a fluid-filled sac at the entrance to your vagina.

You have two glands, one on either side of your vagina, called your Bartholin's glands. They make the mucus that lubricates your vagina and keeps it moist. The mucus travels down a small tube, or duct, to your vagina. If the tube gets blocked it causes a cyst.

Sometimes the fluid gets infected, and the gland and duct fill up with pus. This is called a Bartholin's abscess.

How do I know if I have one?

If you have a Bartholin's cyst you may notice a small lump near the entrance to your vagina, or in the lips next to your vagina. If it's small, it might not cause any problems and you might not even notice it. If it gets big it can be uncomfortable when you sit or stand, or even when you have sex.

If the cyst gets infected then the lump may get big over just a few hours, and the skin around it can get red. It can be very painful and you might have a fever.

Your doctor will probably be able to tell you what the problem is, and what sort of lump you have, just by examining you. You don't need any tests to diagnose a Bartholin's cyst or abscess, but you may need to have a swab of any pus to check what bugs are causing the infection.

How is a Bartholin's cyst treated?

If the cyst is small and not causing any problems, then you can just leave it alone. If it gets big and uncomfortable, you can have a small operation to drain the fluid. This is done by a specialist (gynaecologist) at hospital. You can go home the same day.

If you get a Bartholin's abscess you will need antibiotics to clear up the infection. If the antibiotics don't clear it up completely you will need a small operation to drain the pus. This is also done by a specialist (gynaecologist) at hospital. You can go home the same day.

Can I stop it from happening again?

Doctors don't know why the ducts between your Bartholin's glands and vagina get blocked, so there is nothing specific you have to do to prevent it. Most women who get a Bartholin's cyst won't get another one.

Sometimes abscesses are caused by sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea, so practising safe sex and using condoms may stop some of these abscesses from happening.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Canterbury DHB. Page created November 2016.

Sources

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Review key: HIVIP-32204