A pair of Bartholin glands is found on each side of the vagina which helps in keeping the vagina well lubricated. These glands are very small that you cannot feel or see it. These glands are located on the libia (folds of skin) that envelops vagina on either side. When the openings of these glands are blocked, fluid gets back into the gland accumulating to form a cyst known as Bartolin’s cyst. Often they are tiny swelling abscess around the vagina and are painless. It is quite common to develop a Bartholin cyst and it gets resolved within few days. In rare cases, surgical drainage becomes necessary.
Often, Bartholin cysts go unnoticed owing to its tiny size and painless nature. You may not even notice it unless an infection develops on it. The cyst can be seen as a small lump on the lips of vagina near the opening. During infection it can cause discomfort while sitting or walking and pain while having sex. Often, these cysts occur on one side of the vagina.
Exact cause of the formation of Bartholin’s cyst is unknown and still it is not clear why some women are getting it and others not. Bartholin’s cyst is formed when the tiny openings of the Bartholin glands get blocked. It can occur due to extra growth of the skin or due to bacterial infection like E. coli or due to sexually transmitted diseases like Chlamydia or gonorrhea. The cysts grow bigger in size while having sex since it secretes more fluid during intercourse to keep the vagina lubricated.
Your doctor may perform a pelvic exam to detect Bartholin cyst. He may collect complete medical history and ask series of questions to check the possibility of sexual transmission. Biopsy of the tissue sample can be done for testing it on the lab to rule out any bacterial infection or cancer.
Bartholin cyst does not require any treatment since the abscess would drain off within few days. You need to get medical help only if it troubles you while having sex or the cyst has developed infection causing bad odor and itching. Taking Sitz baths several times a day is the best remedy for Bartholin cyst. Fill a tub with lukewarm water and sit relaxed on it for few minutes. The cysts would rupture to drain off the liquid inside. You can manage the pain by taking Advil or Motrin for some days if you have pain during intercourse.
Surgery is the choice only if the size of the cyst is large or it causes complication. Your surgeon may give a shot of local anesthesia during the procedure. He would gently make a small incision directly on the cyst to drain off the fluid inside. Subsequently a tiny catheter (rubber tubing) is placed in the region for few weeks to facilitate complete drainage. You may not be able be have sex until the catheter is removed from the area.
If your doctor suspects bacterial infection on the cyst, he would prescribe suitable antibiotics. Marsupialization is another procedure by which Bartholin’s cyst is treated. Your doctor would create a small opening on the sides of the cyst and inserts a catheter so that there is full drainage of fluid inside for some days. If the Bartholin cysts do not respond to the above methods, the glands would be removed surgically in the hospital.