Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 November 2010 15:03
Bartholinâ€™s glands are two small organs located on either side of the vaginal opening. They secrete fluid to help lubricate the vagina. If one of the ducts draining the glands becomes blocked, normal fluid builds up inside the gland and forms a cyst.
Under certain conditions the cyst becomes infected, in which instance it is called an abscess. An infection can occur as a result of bacteria normally found in the intestinal tract, such as E. coli or sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.
Bartholinâ€™s Cyst Symptoms
Bartholinâ€™s cysts can be painless but are usually tender. They can begin as a tiny mass and grow to be quite large. Some women with Bartholin cysts are unable to walk or sit comfortably due to the size of the enlarged gland. Bartholinâ€™s absecces are extremely painful. The skin is often red and warm to the touch.
Bartholinâ€™s Cyst Causes
A Bartholinâ€™s cyst can be caused by fluid clogging the duct emptying the gland, or by the growth of skin over the opening of the gland.
Bartholinâ€™s Cyst Diagnosis
A pelvic examination can diagnose a Bartholinâ€™s cyst. The doctor will also ask about symptoms during the medical history.
If the cyst is infected, fluid from the abscess and the cervix will be analysed for the presence of bacteria. It is important to identify any sexually transmitted infections, as they can cause further problems.
An excision of the gland or a biopsy may be recommended for women who are over 40, who are at an increased risk for developing a Bartholinâ€™s gland tumour and other cancers of the reproductive system.
Treatments for Bartholinâ€™s Cyst
Sometimes a Bartholinâ€™s cyst clears up on its own. A doctor may also recommend one of the following treatments.
Sitz baths: Using a special basin or a bathtub the vulva is soaked in warm water for approximately 15 minutes. The sitz bath should be repeated three to four times per day. The bath may cause the cyst to rupture and drain, which allows it to heal.
Antibiotics: medications may be prescribed to resolve bacterial infection within the gland.
Surgical drainage: A small incision is made in the cyst and then a tiny catheter is inserted that allows the gland to drain completely.
Marsupialization: This process is used for recurring cysts. A permanent opening is made in the gland by creating a tiny incision with stitches on either side.
Surgical removal: The complete removal of one or both of the glands is recommended in cases where it is important to avoid recurring absecces.
Bartholinâ€™s Cyst Prevention
Poor personal hygiene and high-risk sexual behavior, such as sex with multiple partners or without a condom can increase the risk of infection of a Bartholinâ€™s cyst.