Lately we, at Find My Method, have been receiving many inquiries about Bartholin’s cysts. What are they? Are they dangerous? Who gets them? We are here to answer all of these related questions, to demystify this part of the female anatomy that is often ignored.
What is a Bartholin’s cyst?
There are two Bartholin’s glands deep within the vagina that secrete mucus into the vaginal and vulvar region via a duct. This mucus provides lubrication, and it is a normal physiologic process occurring all the time. A cyst is a small fluid-filled sac that occurs when the opening of the gland is blocked, which leads to backed up secretions within the gland which causes swelling. A cyst is not usually painful, but if it is very painful it may be a Bartholin’s abscess.
How do I know if my Bartholin’s cyst becomes an abscess?
A Bartholin’s cyst has potential to become an abscess if infection occurs. This can happen if bacteria become trapped within the cyst. An abscess is often swollen, red, warm, and painful to touch.
Who gets Bartholin’s cysts and abscesses?
These can occur in any female due to the anatomy of the Bartholin’s glands. Bartholin’s abscesses more commonly occur in persons at higher risk for sexually transmitted infections.
Is this dangerous?
No. A Bartholin’s cyst will usually resolve on its own. A Bartholin’s abscess may require some medical treatment, but it is very unlikely to be dangerous or cause any serious infection.
How do I treat a Bartholin’s cyst or abscess?
You can manage most cysts or minor abscesses with self-care. Using warm compresses on the swollen area, or taking sitz baths can be helpful to open the duct and relieve swelling. Oral medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen help to relieve pain and swelling. Larger abscesses, or those that do not improve with the above measures, may require medical evaluation. In some cases, a procedure may be performed to drain a Bartholin’s abscess, and sometimes oral antibiotics may be used.
Do I need to seek medical evaluation?
You should consider seeking medical evaluation if you have severe pain limiting your ability to walk or sit, or if you develop fevers. These could be signs of an abscess requiring drainage.
Can I have sex with a Bartholin’s cyst?
You can have sex with a Bartholin’s cyst, but it may cause some discomfort or pain. If you have a cyst, but you feel comfortable enough to have sex then it is okay to have sex. If the symptoms are bothersome, then it is best to wait until the symptoms resolve. Listen to how your body feels, and it will guide you.
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About the author: Dr Kimberly Remski is a family medicine physician with a special focus on sexual and reproductive health. She practices in the United States and is a medical consultant for Find My Method.