Bartholin’s Cyst: What It Is and How It Can Cause Pain

“According to estimates, around 2% (1 in 50) of women will experience a Bartholin’s cyst at some point in their lives” [1], so if you do realise that you have a small lump in your labia, it is very important to book an appointment with a Vulva Specialist as soon as possible. That way, you can ensure you will receive an accurate diagnosis, and rule out anything serious. You can also get started on a Personalised Treatment Program right from the get-go

Understanding the Basics

As any Vulva Doctor will tell you: a Bartholin’s cyst (also known as a Bartholin’s duct cyst), refers to a small growth which can appear just inside the vagina opening. Note: cysts are small sacs which are filled with fluid. In the majority of cases, they are harmless [1].

The Bartholin’s glands refer to a pair of pea-sized glands which are situated right behind, and at either side of the inner pair of lips (labia minora) which surround the vagina entrance. They are not normally apparent as they are so small. In fact, they are seldom larger than 0.4 inches (1cm across) [1].

Did You Know?

A Bartholin’s cyst can stay small and painless, moreover, it might not generate any symptoms. However, as a Vulva Doctor knows all too well, “it is possible for the cyst to become infected, and this can cause an abscess (a painful collection of pus) in the Bartholin’s gland” [1]

Various different kinds of bacteria can generate an infection which blocks the duct. Some of the former can be passed on via sexual contact, while others emanate from the environment [1]. If you visit a Vulva Specialist, they may check for the following infections:

• Gonococcus
• Chlamydia trachomatis
• Escherichia coli
• Streptococcus pneumoniae, and more [1]

The Low-Down

During sexual intercourse, the Bartholin’s glands secrete fluid which works as a lubricant. This fluid travels down tiny tubes (ducts) into the vagina. If however, there is any blockage within the ducts, they get bigger as they fill up with fluid. It is at this point that they become a cyst [1].

If a Bartholin’s cyst grows very large, it will become noticeable. Moreover, when an abscess forms, it can enlarge quickly (within hours or days), and it is normally extremely painful. Furthermore, in many cases, the skin covering the abscess frequently becomes hot and red, and may generate a discharge. In addition, the sufferer can feel unwell, and have a high temperature. Moreover, the sufferer is likely to feel pain emanating from their external sexual organs (which in medical terminology, are collectively described as the vulva) [1].

As a Vulva Doctor will explain to you, you could feel pain in your vulva during certain times. These include:
• Whilst you are having sexual intercourse
• When you are walking, and
• When you are sitting down
Moreover, in some instances, the cyst can impact the outer pair of lips around the vagina opening (the labia majora). And one side of the lips could be larger than normal [1].

What Can a Vulva Doctor Do if a Cyst Becomes Very large?

“If the cyst becomes large or painful, a number of treatments are available to drain and remove the cyst. Most treatments involve a minor surgical procedure under local anaesthetic, which takes around 20 minutes to complete. Following surgery to drain and remove a cyst, it will take around two weeks to fully recover. Depending on which procedure is used, the cyst or abscess can re-occur in up to 38% of women” [1], and this is why your Vulva Doctor will tell you what to look out for, so that it is caught and treated right away


[1]. Central Manchester University Hospital (2014). ” Bartholin’s Cyst.” Information For Patients.