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Bartholin’s cysts

3-minute read

What is a Bartholin’s cyst?

A Bartholin's cyst can develop if the ducts of glands at the entrance of the vagina become blocked.

Bartholin’s glands are found on each side of the vaginal opening and produce the fluid that helps lubricate the vagina. Sometimes the glands become blocked and the fluid builds up to cause a cyst. If the fluid becomes infected, it will form pus and become a Bartholin’s abscess.

The cyst or abscess usually forms on one side of the vaginal opening.

What causes a Bartholin’s cyst?

Bartholin’s cysts are most common in women of reproductive age and in women who have previously had a Bartholin’s cyst or abscess. They can be associated with sexual activity, direct trauma (injury) to the area, or surgery.

What are the symptoms of a Bartholin’s cyst?

You can have a Bartholin’s cyst and not notice it. If the cyst grows, symptoms can include:

  • a tender or painful lump near the vaginal entrance
  • pressure or fullness near the vaginal entrance
  • pain during intercourse
  • discomfort when walking or sitting
  • fever (if there is an abscess)

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

When should I see my doctor?

If the cyst is not causing pain or discomfort, you may not need treatment. Sometimes home treatment, such as soaking the affected part several times a day in a shallow, warm bath, will make an infected cyst break open and drain by itself.

See your doctor if your cyst does not get better after 3 days of treatment with these baths. If the pain is severe or you have a fever, see your doctor right away.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How is a Bartholin’s cyst diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and examine the cyst. They may also perform a pelvic (internal) examination and send samples of vaginal fluids to identify any infection.

How is a Bartholin’s cyst treated?

The type of treatment will depend on:

  • the size of the cyst
  • if it is painful
  • whether the cyst is infected

You may need to have the cyst drained or take a course of antibiotics if it's infected. In rare cases, surgery may be needed.

Bartholin's cysts can come back.

Your doctor might also want to rule out cancer, especially if you are over 40.

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Last reviewed: June 2021

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