The two Bartholin’s glands are located at the entrance to a woman’s Vagina one on each side. They are small and cannot be seen or felt when they are normal. Their function is to secrete fluid into the mucosal (inner)  surface of the labia, the liplike skin surrounding the vagina. Problems with Bartholin’s glands include cysts which are relatively painless enlargement of the glands and abscesses, which are infections of the gland. Typically only one of the two glands is affected.

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A Bartholin’s cyst develops when the duct exiting the Bartholin’s glands becomes blocked. The fluid produce by the gland then accumulates, causing the gland to swell and form a cyst. An abscess occurs when a cyst becomes infected. Bartholin’s abscess can be caused by any of these bacteria chlamydia, gonorrhea as well as bacteria normally found in the intestinal tract such as Escherichia coli. It is common for these abscesses to involve more than one type of organism.


A Bartholin’s cyst causes swelling of the labia on one side near the entrance to the vagina. A cyst is usually not very painful and significant pain suggests that an abscess has developed.  However large cyst maybe painful simply by virtue of their size.

A Bartholin’s abscess causes significant pain in addition to the swelling.  The swollen area is extremely tender and the skin rendered walking and sitting maybe quite painful.

Women with Bartholin’s abscess may have vaginal discharge especially if the infection is caused by a sexually transmitted organism.


1. If a Bartholin’s cyst develops prompt treatment with sits baths may prevent the development of the abscess

2. Safe sex practices can decrease the spread of sexually transmitted disease and therefore prevent the formation of abscess caused by these organisms.

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Bartholin’s cyst self-care at home:

Home treatment of Bartholin’s cyst and abscesses involves sit baths which promote drainage. The water should not be so hot as to burn the skin, but it should be fairly warm. These soaks should be done for 10-15minute at a time, 3-4 times daily.

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