Bartholin'S Cyst

1 What is Bartholin's Cyst?

Bartholin’s cyst refers to an obstruction in the duct of the Bartholin’s glands, the organs located under the vaginal skin near its opening.

Secretions of this gland moisten the vulva. The Bartholin gland cyst may be very small or grow to the size of a large marble.

Growth of these cysts are usually very slow. In some cases, the fluid in the duct may get infected resulting in an abscess.

Bartholin’s cyst is common and may or may not require specific treatment.

Treatment modality depends on intensity of pain, size of the cyst and presence of the infection.

Around one in 50 women are affected by Bartholin’s cysts, and it's commonly seen in the age group of 20-30 years when women are sexually very active.  

2 Symptoms

Symptoms of Bartholin's cyst are generally not seen when the cyst is small in size. But as it grows, it becomes noticeable in the form of a small lump near the opening of vagina.

The cysts are usually painless, but are tender to touch.

Large lumps cause slight discomfort and pain in the area around vagina, particularly during walking, sitting and during intercourse.

The vulva will show reddishness and swelling. Infection of the fluid in the Bartholin’s duct leads to a painful condition with collection of puss in the cyst.

Pain becomes more with walking, sitting and moving around. Fever and chills are also common symptoms of a cyst infection.

Cysts may show drainage through the swollen vulva.

3 Causes

The actual cause of Bartholin's Cyst is not known.

Cysts in the Bartholin’s gland are formed by a block in the ducts.

Gonorrhea and Chlamydia infections are linked to the development of cyst abscesses.

E. coli infections may also cause these obstructions.

Sexual intercourse stimulates growth of the cyst as production of fluid by the glands is increased during this period.

4 Making a Diagnosis

When asymptomatic, Bartholin's cyst is often diagnosed during a routine pelvic screening or while examining for other conditions.

As there are no symptoms in the early stages of development, it may remain unnoticed for quite some time.

An infection of the cyst is identified on the basis of symptoms such as fever, swelling and pain in the vaginal area.

A doctor may prescribe a biopsy of the cyst to rule out chances of cancer, particularly in women over 45 years old.

Secretions may be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

5 Treatment

In most cases, no specific treatment is required for a Bartholin’s cyst, and this is particularly true for asymptomatic cysts.

Treatment depends on the size of the cyst, presence of infection, and the intensity of pain and discomfort in the affected area.

Some of the common treatment methods include:

  • Self-care – simple measures like soaking the affected area in warm water for three to four days and taking pain killers are helpful in relieving pain and discomfort.
  • Drainage of the cyst – this method is adopted if the cyst is large and infected. With this procedure, a small catheter is inserted into the cyst for drainage and healing.
  • Antibiotics – antibiotics are prescribed when the cyst is infected.
  • Marsupialization – this method is recommended for recurrent cysts. Two small slits are cut into the cysts and edges sutured. This will create a drainage system for the cyst or the abscess and helps in gland healing.
  • Silver nitrate ablation – In this procedure, after drainage of the cyst, a small silver nitrate stick is inserted into the cyst. The cyst gets converted into a small lump which falls off after a few days.
  • Carbon-dioxide laser – A carbon dioxide laser is used to create a slit for the drainage of the cyst. The cyst is then destroyed using laser or left as such with the slit for fluid drainage.

If the cysts are not responding to any of the above-mentioned procedures, the glands are removed surgically. 

This is usually done only after considering the surgery-related risks and complications.

6 Prevention

There are no clear cut methods for the prevention of Bartholin's cyst as the actual cause for duct obstruction is not known.

Many cases are associated with sexually transmitted diseases and hence, practicing safe sex helps to prevent this condition.

Hygienic habits are also important in preventing the infection of cyst.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Silica supplements are suggested homeopathic remedies for control of growth and pain of these cysts.

Rubbing tea tree oil in the affected area two to three times after a bath is also known to help control cysts.

Burdock root tablets are also used for boosting immunity and also to prevent infections in the cyst.

Applying oils of chamomile, clary sage, rosemary, and patchouli on the abscess is yet another home remedy for controlling Bartholin’s cyst.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with Bartholin's cyst.

The best self-measure for controlling pain and discomfort due to the cyst is soaking the affected area with warm water.

Add Epsom salt to the water and sit in a bath two times for about 20-30 minutes.

This method is helpful in draining the cyst and also to keep the affected area clean.

Over-the-counter pain medications can be used to control pain.

9 Risks and Complications

In some cases, there is a risk of Bartholin’s cyst to be persistent.

In some cases, abscesses may recur and require treatment.

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