Bartholin Cysts and Bartholin Abscesses
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What is a Bartholin Cyst?

A Bartholin cyst is a type of vaginal cyst that forms on the labia (vaginal lips) near the opening of the vagina.

The Bartholin’s glands are important organs of the female reproductive system. Danish anatomist Caspar Bartholin Secundus first described them in 1677.  Their primary function is the production of a mucoid secretion that aids in vaginal and vulvar lubrication.

Bartholin glands are small glands that produce fluid to lubricate the vagina. The cyst occurs when one of these gland ducts becomes blocked, causing mucus to build up and form a lump. It usually occurs on only one side of the labia. Some Bartholin cysts are small and painless, while others may become infected and cause pain.

What does a Bartholin cyst look like?

A Bartholin cyst appears as a round bump under the skin on the labia. It is often painless but can become red, tender, and swollen if infected. Some cysts may look filled with pus or fluid. They can vary in size, ranging from as small as a pea to as large as a golf ball. The cyst may make one side of the labia appear larger or uneven.

Who gets Bartholin cysts?

Bartholin cysts can occur in about 2% of women at some point in their life. They are more common in women of reproductive age and become less likely after menopause.

Bartholin cyst Causes

The exact cause of Bartholin cysts is unknown. Some possible causes include:

  • Injury, irritation, or extra skin growth in the vaginal area.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea.
  • Bacterial infections like Escherichia coli (E. coli).

Bartholin cyst Symptoms

Many Bartholin cysts are small and do not cause symptoms other than minor irritation. However, if the cyst becomes infected, symptoms may include:

  • Discomfort and pain during sex, walking, sitting, or inserting a tampon.
  • Swelling and tenderness in the area.
  • Fever or chills.
  • Redness.
  • Drainage from the cyst.
  • Change in size (the cyst gets larger).

Is a Bartholin cyst contagious?

Most Bartholin cysts do not become infected and cannot spread through skin-to-skin contact. However, if the cyst is caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), the infection itself can be contagious.

Are Bartholin cysts caused by an infection?

Bartholin cysts can be caused by bacterial infections such as E. coli or STIs like gonorrhoea and chlamydia. These bacteria can block the Bartholin gland and lead to the formation of a cyst.

Are Bartholin Cysts Contagious?

The majority of Bartholin cysts do not get infected and are not transmissible through skin-to-skin contact. However, it is important to note that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can potentially lead to Bartholin cysts, and these infections are indeed contagious.

How is a Bartholin Cyst diagnosed?

A healthcare provider can diagnose a Bartholin cyst through a physical examination. They will assess the size of the cyst and look for signs of infection. If the cyst produces discharge, fluid may be tested for STIs or other bacterial infections. In some cases, a biopsy may be performed to rule out cancer in older women.

What are the treatments for a Bartholin cyst?

The treatment for Bartholin cysts depends on the symptoms. If the cyst is small, painless, and not infected, it may not require treatment.

However, if symptoms persist or the cyst grows, it may indicate an abscess (infection) that needs to be addressed.

Treatment options can include:

  • Sitz baths: Sitting in a bathtub with warm water a few times a day can provide comfort and promote healing. It may help an infected cyst burst and drain on its own.
  • Over-the-counter pain medications: Taking pain relievers as directed can help with discomfort.
  • Antibiotics: If the cyst becomes infected or tests reveal an STI, antibiotics may be prescribed.
  • Surgical draining: In cases of large and infected cysts, surgery may be necessary to drain the fluid. A catheter  (Word Catheter) may be inserted into the cyst for drainage of the fluid.
  • Marsupialization: This surgical procedure involves opening and draining the cyst. The edges of the cyst wall are then stitched to create a permanent pocket for continuous drainage. This approach is beneficial for recurring Bartholin cysts.
  • Removal of the Bartholin’s gland: In extremely rare cases where other treatments are ineffective, the healthcare provider may surgically remove the Bartholin’s glands.

Is it good to pop a Bartholin cyst?

It is never recommended to squeeze, pop, or insert sharp objects into a Bartholin cyst to force it to open. This can cause injury and spread infection. It is normal for a Bartholin cyst to drain on its own after several days of treatment, such as sitz baths or antibiotics.

What comes out of a Bartholin cyst when it opens?

When a Bartholin cyst opens, it may release various substances such as pus, mucus, bacteria, blood, or other fluids. The discharge can be thick and range in colour from light yellow to brown or red. Infected Bartholin cysts may have an unpleasant odour when they rupture. It is important to keep the affected area clean and practice good hygiene.


Bartholin cysts cannot be prevented in most cases since the exact cause is unknown. However, reducing the risk of complications from infections can be achieved by maintaining good hygiene practices and using condoms during sex to lower the risk of STIs.

It is important to consult with a healthcare provider for proper guidance on treatment. Attempting to drain or squeeze a cyst at home can lead to infection and worsen symptoms. Feel free to reach out to us if you have any inquiries or worries regarding Bartholin cyst or its treatment. Our team of TopGynaecologists are dedicated to offering you excellent care and support. You’re not alone in this process, and we genuinely appreciate hearing from you.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

1. How do I manage the symptoms of a Bartholin cyst?

To manage the symptoms of a Bartholin cyst, you can try at-home remedies such as soaking in a warm bath several times a day (sitz baths) and taking over-the-counter pain relievers. These measures can help alleviate discomfort. Many Bartholin cysts resolve on their own without medical treatment. However, if the cyst becomes painful or infected, it is advisable to contact a healthcare provider.

2. Do Bartholin cysts go away on their own?

Most Bartholin cysts commonly resolve on their own. Sitz baths are often recommended by healthcare providers to manage symptoms. If a cyst drains or bursts on its own, it is generally considered normal. Keeping the area clean and dry can help prevent the spread of infection. It is important not to squeeze or drain a Bartholin cyst yourself, as this can cause infection. If the cyst becomes painful, infected, or persists for several weeks without improvement, it is recommended to contact a healthcare provider.

3. How long does a Bartholin cyst last?

The duration of a Bartholin cyst varies depending on its size and whether it becomes infected. Typically, cysts completely resolve within a few weeks. After examining the cyst, a healthcare provider can provide an estimate of how long symptoms may last.

4. Can a Bartholin cyst keep coming back?

Some women may experience recurring Bartholin cysts, although healthcare providers are unsure why this happens. While Bartholin gland cysts are usually treatable, recurring cysts may require more intensive treatment.

5. When should I call the healthcare provider?

It is important to contact a healthcare provider if you have a painful lump.

Mahantesh Karoshi
Mahantesh Karoshi

I'm a Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist and Women's Health Expert. I believe in educating my patients to contribute to achieving the best possible clinical and holistic outcomes. By taking this approach, I enable and empower my patients whilst addressing their issues and concerns. I run a private practice with an extremely high standard of professionalism. My patients are directly involved in their care and management in all stages. My approach to my patient's problems is built on dedication and passion, drawing on analytical thinking and my on-time honored reading, teaching medical professionals nationally and internationally.