Introduction of Bartholin’s cyst

A Bartholin’s cyst, also called a Bartholin’s duct cyst, is a small growth just inside the opening of a woman’s vagina. Cysts are small fluid-filled sacs that are usually harmless.

A Bartholin’s cyst can stay small and painless and may not cause any symptoms. However, the cyst can become infected, which can cause a painful collection of pus (an abscess) in the Bartholin’s gland.

Read more about the symptoms of a Bartholin’s cyst.

What causes a Bartholin’s cyst?

The Bartholin’s glands are a pair of pea-sized glands. They are found just behind and either side of the inner lips that surround the entrance to the vagina (the labia majora). The glands are not usually noticeable because they are rarely larger than 1cm (0.4 inches) across.

The Bartholin’s glands secrete fluid that acts as a lubricant during sex. The fluid travels down tiny tubes, called ducts, into the vagina. If the ducts become blocked, they will fill with fluid and expand. This then becomes a cyst.

Read more about the causes of a Bartholin’s cyst.

When should I see my GP?

Report any new lumps to your GP so that they can confirm or rule out a diagnosis of a Bartholin’s cyst and check for infection or other conditions.

Also see your GP if you have a cyst that becomes large or painful, or is uncomfortable when you sit or walk.

Several treatments are available to treat any pain or infection and, if necessary, drain the cyst. Most treatments involve a minor surgical procedure. However, Bartholin’s cysts are known to come back in up to 38% of women.  

If you do not have any symptoms, it’s unlikely that you will need treatment.

Read more about treating a Bartholin’s cyst.

Who is affected?

According to estimates, around 2% of women will develop a Bartholin’s cyst. The condition usually affects sexually active women who are 20 to 30 years old.

The Bartholin’s glands do not start functioning until puberty, so Bartholin’s cysts do not usually affect children.

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