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Women's Health

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Bartholin Gland Cyst - Topic Overview

What are the Bartholin glands?

The Bartholin glands camera.gif are two small organs under the skin in a woman's genital area. They are on either side of the folds of skin (labia) that surround the vagina and urethra. Most of the time, you can't feel or see these glands.

The Bartholin glands make a small amount of fluid that moistens the outer genital area, or vulva. This fluid comes out of two tiny tubes next to the opening of the vagina. These tubes are called Bartholin ducts.

What are Bartholin gland cysts?

If a Bartholin duct gets blocked, fluid builds up in the gland. The blocked gland is called a Bartholin gland cyst camera.gif. (Sometimes it's called a Bartholin duct cyst.) These cysts can range in size from a pea to a large marble. They usually grow slowly. If the Bartholin gland or duct gets infected, it's called a Bartholin gland abscess.

Bartholin gland cysts are often small and painless. Some go away without treatment. But if you have symptoms, you might want treatment. If the cyst is infected, you will need treatment.

What causes a Bartholin gland cyst?

Things like an infection, thick mucus, or swelling can block a Bartholin gland duct and cause a cyst. The cyst can get bigger after sex, because the glands make more fluid during sex.

Infected Bartholin cysts are sometimes caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You can lower your risk of STIs by using a condom when you have sex.

What are the symptoms?

You may not have any symptoms if the Bartholin gland cyst is small. But a large cyst or an infected cyst (abscess) can cause symptoms.

Symptoms of a cyst that is not infected include:

  • A painless lump in the vulva area.
  • Redness or swelling in the vulva area.
  • Discomfort when you walk, sit, or have sex.

Symptoms of an infected cyst include:

  • Pain that gets worse and makes it hard to walk, sit, or move around.
  • Fever and chills.
  • Swelling in the vulva area.
  • Drainage from the cyst.
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