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Bartholin's cyst
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 N75.0
ICD-9 616.2

A Bartholin's cyst is formed when a Bartholin's gland is blocked, causing a fluid-filled cyst to develop. A Bartholin's cyst is not an infection, although it can be caused by an infection, inflammation, or physical blockage (mucus or other impediment) to the Bartholin's ducts (tubes which lead from the glands to the vulva). If infection sets in, the result is a Bartholin's abscess. If the infection is severe or repeated a surgical procedure known as marsupialization may be required to stop further recurrences.

Bartholin's cysts are most common in women aged 20–29, especially those who have never been pregnant or have only been pregnant very few times.

A Bartholin's cyst can grow from the size of a pea to the size of an egg. Cysts are not sexually transmitted, though sexually transmitted diseases such as Gonorrhea are the most common causes, with syphilis or other bacterial infections also being common.


The treatment can depend on one or more of these factors: the size of the cyst, how painful it is, if it is infected, and the patient's age. In some cases, a small cyst can simply be observed over time to see if it grows. In other cases, the doctor can perform a minor procedure in the office, in which a small tube (a catheter) is inserted into the cyst[1] and inflated to keep it in place. The catheter stays in place for 2 to 4 weeks, draining the fluid and causing a normal gland opening to form, after which the catheter is removed. The catheters do not generally impede normal activity, and sexual intercourse is generally abstained from while the catheter is in place.

Cysts may also be opened permanently, a method called marsupialization,[2] in which an opening to the gland is formed with stitches which hold the secretion channel open.

The cysts are not life-threatening, but can be quite painful and can even make walking difficult. New cysts cannot absolutely be prevented from forming; however, surgical or laser removal of a cyst makes it less likely that a new one will form at the same site. However, those with a cyst are more likely than someone else to get one in the future. Some recur once every few years, while the more unlucky ones get them more frequently. There is not presently a generally agreed-upon explanation in the medical field for the cause of these cysts, nor agreement upon what can be done to help prevent them. Many women who have marsupialization done find that the recurrences may slow, but do not actually stop.

If a Bartholin gland cyst is not infected, you will likely feel a painless lump in the vulva area. You may have some redness or swelling. The size of a cyst can be about 0.25in. to 1in.. You may find the cyst on your own, or your doctor may notice it during a physical exam. If a cyst gets infected, it will probably hurt a lot. An infected cyst forms an abscess. A gland is probably infected if you are in extreme pain and have trouble even walking or sitting. This abscess can get bigger over 2 to 4 days. In some cases, you may not need to treat a Bartholin gland cyst. Some cysts go away without treatment. But if you have symptoms, you might want treatment. If the cyst is infected and painful, you will need treatment. Your gynecologist or family doctor can treat a Bartholin gland cyst.

If the cyst is infected, it may break open and start to heal on its own after 3 to 4 days. Call your doctor if you have a lot of pain or a fever. At home, you can take a nonprescription pain medication such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to relieve pain. To help healing, soak the area in a shallow, warm bath, or sitz bath. Do not have sex while a Bartholin cyst is healing.

If a Bartholin gland abscess comes back several times, your doctor may surgically remove the gland and duct.


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