Vaginal Cyst – Causes And Surgical & Non-Surgical Treatments For Bartholin’s Abscess
Have you ever felt something inside of your vagina that is making it hard for you to sit, walk or move around? It could be anything, a pimple, a wart, lump or cyst. So it’s natural to worry about something which is hindering your day to day activities should be dealt seriously. Vaginal cyst or Bartholin’s Abscess is one such condition which can make your life standstill.
Bartholin’s cyst or most commonly known as Bartholin’ abscess is a type of vaginal cyst that occurs in the Bartholin’s glands of the vagina. These pea-shaped glands located on each side of the vagina are responsible for secreting fluid that helps in lubrication. The abscess forms when these glands become infected.
Bartholin’s abscesses are often used interchangeably with the vaginal cyst. Other types of common vaginal cysts are mainly related to pregnancy and childbirth. These are:
Vaginal Inclusion Cysts
This kind of cyst is also common and often occurs during the childbirth or after certain surgery. Vaginal inclusion cyst is caused by injury to the vaginal wall.
These types of cysts are also common and develop as a result of the leftover of a developing baby. They can grow anywhere on the walls of the vagina and often filled with mucus.
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Gartner’s Duct Cysts
These cysts mainly develops in a pregnant woman. The duct normally goes away after the childbirth, however, if it remains, it can form cysts on the vaginal wall.
What causes Bartholin’s Abscess?
A Bartholin’s abscess is generally a result of cyst formation. When Bartholin glands are blocked or swollen up due to bacteria, fluid begins accumulating in these glands. This creates pressure in the area and if the swelling is severe, this can form abscess. Bartholin’s abscess or infected cyst occurs on either side of the vaginal wall at a time.
Fluid buildup process can take years to form a cyst, however, if cyst develops, abscess doesn’t take much time and builds up quickly. Some experts believe that infection caused by bacteria such as E. Coli (Escherichia Coli) and sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and chlamydia may contribute to Bartholin’s abscess.
Risk factors of Bartholin’s abscess
A woman has more chances of developing Bartholin’s cyst if she:
- Sexually active young women
- Is not pregnant or just had one pregnancy
How common is Bartholin’s abscess?
Women of reproductive age are most affected by this condition. It is estimated that about 2 percent of women will experience Bartholin’s abscess once in a lifetime.
What is the size of Bartholin’s abscess?
The cyst can be as large as the size of a golf ball. As per size of Bartholin’s abscess, it can be about an inch in diameter.
Signs and Symptoms of Bartholin’s abscess
The condition may not cause any symptoms if the cyst is small. However, a large cyst which is infected and turns into an abscess can become problematic. We can divide both the types of symptoms below:
Symptoms of an uninfected cyst:
- Feeling of painless lump or mass in the vulvar region
- Minor discomfort in walking, sitting or during sex
- Swelling and redness in the vulvar area
Symptoms of an infected cyst:
- Pain that hinders daily activities such as sitting, walking or moving around
- Fever and chills
- Drainage from the cyst
- Swollen area that is warm to touch
Diagnosis of Bartholin’s abscess
It might be possible that you may find a cyst on self-examination. However, the doctor is the only person who can correctly diagnose the condition. She would first physically examine the vagina to check for lump or mass. The doctor might extract a sample of the affected area to check for any sexually transmitted infection. Blood and urine tests may be suggested.
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Treatment of Bartholin’s abscess
Bartholin’s abscess can be treated in several ways depending on the case. These could be divided into non-surgical and surgical methods.
If the cyst is small it can be treated effectively at the comfort of your home. This can be done via sitz bath technique which is basically a term used for sitting in a bathtub filled with water up to 2-3 inches of height. It should be done for at least 3-4 days and several times a day. This will cause the cyst to rupture and drain over the time.
Another home-based treatment for Bartholin’s abscess is to create a topical ointment mixing tea tree and castor (arandi) oil. Apply the ointment on the abscess and it may promote the drainage of the abscess.
For abscess or infected cyst, the doctor may recommend antibiotics. However, abscess which has been drained properly might not need antibiotics further.
In some cases, surgery is needed to drain the infected abscess. Before this minor surgery, you will be given local anesthesia. Then the doctor will make a small cut in the infected cyst and let the fluid inside drain. The doctor will place a small catheter (rubber tube) in the position of the cut or incision. This catheter will remain there for up to 6 weeks for complete drainage of the abscess. You cannot indulge in sex until this catheter is removed.
Removing Bartholin’s gland
If the above-mentioned treatments aren’t effective, the doctor might remove the Bartholin’s gland entirely. This procedure is typically performed in the hospital under general anesthesia.
Can a woman prevent Bartholin’s abscess?
There isn’t any absolute way we can prevent this condition. All we can do is to practice good hygiene and safe sex using condoms, both of which can prevent bacteria. Also, keeping the urinary tract healthy might help in preventing the bacteria from making the vaginal area a breeding ground for infection.
1. Lee M Y, et al. (2015, May). Clinical Pathology of Bartholin's Glands: A Review of the Literature read more
2. Bartholin's Gland Cyst (2014, January). Harvard Health read more
3. Bartholin's Cyst and Abscess (2017, October 18). Patient Info read more