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Bartholin's cysts

A Bartholin's cyst is a small fluid-filled sac (called a cyst) at the opening of 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 can cause a cyst.

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

Doctors do not know why the ducts between your Bartholin's glands and vagina get blocked, but it could be due to infection or injury. Sometimes it's linked to sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea, or another bacterial infection such as E.coli.

Diagnosing a Bartholin's cyst

If you have a Bartholin's cyst you may notice a small, soft painless lump near the entrance to your vagina, or in the lips next to your vagina. This might not cause any problems and you might not even notice it. Sometimes these cysts are only found during an examination such as routine cervical screening.

If it gets big it can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful when you sit, stand or walk, or 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 tender or even very painful, and you might have a fever.

Treating a Bartholin's cyst

Treatment depends on the size of the cyst, how painful it is and whether it's infected.

If the cyst is small and painless, it will probably go away by itself. If symptoms develop you'll need to go back to your GP.

For a bigger cyst or abscess, you can try:

If the cyst is big and these treatments do not work, a specialist (gynaecologist) may need to drain the fluid for you at the hospital.

Preventing a Bartholin's cyst

If you get a Bartholin's cyst, you usually will not get another one. There is nothing specific you have to do to prevent it. But because abscesses can be caused by sexually transmitted infections, practising safer sex and using condoms may stop some of these abscesses from happening.

Getting help with a Bartholin's cyst

You should always see your GP if you find a lump. They will ask you about any symptoms and how long you've had the lump. They will also check the cyst for any signs of infection.

If the cyst seems infected, they might need to take a swab to check what bugs are causing the infection.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2021.


Page reference: 279444

Review key: HIVVC-53223