The Bartholin's glands are located at the 5:00 and 7:00 position at the opening of the vagina. They secrete mucus to provide vaginal lubrication. A Bartholin's cyst is formed when a Bartholin's gland is blocked, causing a fluid-filled cyst to develop. The cyst can be pea-sized to egg-sized and may or may not cause pain/discomfort. It may become infected (abscess) and then it is usually quite painful.
Treatment varies depending on the size of the cyst/abscess, how painful it is, if it is infected, and the patient's age. Treatment options include:
- Antibiotics, hot packs, spontaneous drainage
- Incision & drainage with placement of a Word catheter this allows opening and drainage of the cyst. The small catheter is placed into the cyst and inflated to keep it in place. The catheter stays in for about two weeks to allow drainage and the body to form a permanent drainage canal.
- Marsupialization a way of permanently opening the gland to allow drainage. The gland is opened and the cyst wall is sutured to the skin to open a channel for secretion.
- Removal of the gland this procedure is done under anesthesia and is reserved for recurrent Bartholin's cysts/abscesses or those that occur in postmenopausal women. The entire gland/cyst is removed to help prevent recurrence and for a definitive diagnosis to exclude malignancy.
If you think you may have a Bartholin's cyst, consult your doctor to talk about your treatment options.
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