Understanding Bartholinitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
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Bartholinitis could be the case if you’ve noticed a lump near your vaginal opening or are facing discomfort or pain in your groin area. This condition is characterised by inflammation of the Bartholin’s glands. While issues in the vaginal area can be uncomfortable and even embarrassing, it’s essential to know that Bartholinitis is not a sexually transmitted condition. And in some cases, it may not even require treatment.

What are Bartholin’s Glands?

Bartholin’s glands (small and pea-sized) are present at the entrance of the vagina, just behind the labia minora. These glands play a vital role in lubrication during sexual intercourse, ensuring comfort and pleasure.

The Connection Between Bartholin’s Cysts and Bartholinitis

Bartholin’s cysts, also known as Bartholin’s duct cysts, develop when the ducts of the Bartholin’s glands become obstructed. This blockage leads to the accumulation of fluids, resulting in a lump or cyst. These cysts can vary in size, from being small and painless to growing as large as a golf ball, causing considerable discomfort.

The exact reasons behind duct blockage remain unclear. But there is a suspected connection to certain vaginal infections, which can also trigger Bartholinitis – an infection and inflammation of the Bartholin’s glands.

Bartholin’s Cyst Symptoms

Detecting Bartholin’s cysts involves paying attention to specific symptoms, which can include:

  • Small Cysts: In many cases, small cysts may not display noticeable symptoms. It is often discovered during routine vaginal examinations or smear tests.
  • Larger Cysts: When cysts grow in size, they can become uncomfortable, potentially causing pain during activities like walking or intercourse.
  • Infected Cysts: In some scenarios, a cyst can become infected, leading to abscess development – a painful accumulation of pus. It is typically accompanied by a red, swollen area on one side of the vagina, often accompanied by a fever.

Prevalence of Bartholin’s Cysts

Bartholin’s cysts are most commonly observed in sexually active women aged between 20 and 40 years. Having a history of previous Bartholin’s cysts or abscesses also increases the risk of developing them in the future.

However, Bartholin’s cysts are relatively uncommon in children, as the Bartholin’s glands typically become active during puberty. They also become less common after menopause as the glands naturally shrink in size.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Bartholin’s Cysts

Diagnosing Bartholin’s cysts involves a vaginal examination. If a cyst is small and painless, it may not need treatment. Larger cysts, on the other hand, may require intervention through excision or marsupialization – a procedure involving cutting into the cyst, draining it, and creating a small opening for further fluid drainage.

In cases where an abscess is present, seek medical advice from your GP or private gynaecologist. Bartholin’s abscesses can often be treated successfully with antibiotics, especially when diagnosed early. If the abscess is resistant, drainage of the pus and the marsupialization procedure may be necessary. This minor surgical procedure is typically performed as a day case under short general anaesthesia. However, it’s worth noting that recurrence can still be a concern even after appropriate treatment.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, since the exact causes of Bartholin’s cysts, abscesses, and inflammation remain unclear, it’s challenging to suggest specific preventative measures. However, given the potential association with infections, practising safe sex may help reduce the risk.

While Bartholinitis may cause discomfort and concern, it’s important to remember that it’s a treatable condition. If you suspect you have Bartholin’s cysts or experience any related symptoms, seeking prompt medical attention is advisable. Your healthcare provider can provide the appropriate diagnosis and treatment options to ensure your well-being.

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.