Bartholin's cyst

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


A Bartholin's cyst is formed when a Bartholin's gland is blocked, causing a cyst to develop. If infection sets in, the result is a Bartholin's abscess. If the infection is severe or repeated a surgical procedure known as marsupialization may be required to stop further recurrences. Most of the time, a Bartholin's cyst is not an infection, although it can be caused by an infection. The cysts that are infected, however, are called abscesses. A cyst can grow from the size of a penny to almost the size of a whole orange but most of them can only reach the size of a golf ball. Cysts can be sexually transmitted by the germs that are contained in the cysts.



  • Uniform hyperintensity on T2-weighted imaging
  • May be heterogeneous when infected.

Bartholin's cyst

Bartholin's abscess


The treatment can depend on one or more of these factors: the size of the cyst, how painful it is, if it is infected and patient age. In some cases, a small cyst can simply be observed over time to see if it grows. In other cases, the doctor can perform a minor procedure in the office, in which a small tube, called a Word catheter, is inserted into the cyst and inflated to keep it in place. The catheter stays in place for 2 to 4 weeks, draining the fluid and causing a normal gland opening to form, after which the catheter is removed. The catheters do not generally impede normal activity, other than that sexual intercourse may be uncomfortable while the catheter is in place. Cysts may also be opened permanently, a method called marsupialization, in reference to the bag-like appearance that remains after this procedure.

The cysts are not life-threatening, but can be quite painful and can even make walking difficult. New cysts cannot absolutely be prevented from forming; however, surgical or laser removal of a cyst makes it less likely that a new one will form at the same site. However, those with a cyst are more likely than someone else to get one in the future. Some women suffer from them once every few years, while the more unlucky ones get them once a month or even more frequently. There is not presently a generally agreed-upon explanation in the medical field for the cause of these cysts, nor agreement upon what one can do to help prevent them. Many women who have marsupialization done find that the recurrences may slow, but do not actually stop, such as every few years as opposed to every few months prior to the surgery.


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