Skip to main content
Read about

Bartholin's Cyst

Tooltip Icon.
Last updated March 22, 2022

Bartholin's cyst quiz

Take a quiz to find out if you have bartholin's cyst.

A Bartholin cyst is a fluid-filled mass that can develop near the opening of the vagina that may be painful or painless. They may cause discomfort with or without activity and do not necessarily require treatment.

What is a Bartholin's cyst?

A Bartholin's cyst is a fluid-filled mass that can develop near the opening of the vagina. They can be painful or painless and are caused by a buildup of fluid in a small gland near the vaginal canal.

Symptoms predominantly include the presence of a painless bump near the vaginal opening as well as pain or discomfort in the vaginal area with or without activity.

Bartholin's cysts do not routinely require treatment. Painful or disfiguring cysts can be treated using a number of different surgical options to drain or fully remove the cyst.

For small Bartholin cysts that are not bothering you, treatment is not required.

Bartholin's cyst symptoms

Many Bartholin's cysts do not cause any symptoms and may be found during a routine pelvic exam. Symptoms that Bartholin's cysts can cause include:

  • Painless  Bartholin's cysts can sometimes be felt by pushing on the area between the outside of the vaginal opening and the inside of the vaginal canal. The bump may feel fluid-filled when pressed.: Bartholin cysts can sometimes be felt by pushing on the area between the outside of the vaginal opening and the inside of the vaginal canal. The bump may feel fluid-filled when pressed.
  • Pain or discomfort in the vaginal area: Pain or discomfort in the vaginal area is more frequently seen with larger Bartholin's cysts, which may push on nearby structures. The area may be tender.
  • Pain during sitting, walking, or sexual intercourse: This is all possible in some women who have Bartholin cysts.
  • Unpleasant or disfiguring appearance: Some Bartholin's cysts may alter the appearance of the vaginal opening. This is more common with larger Bartholin's cysts, which may distort nearby structures.

Bartholin's cyst causes

The Bartholin's glands, also known as the greater vestibular glands, are two glands located on either side of the vaginal opening at the four and eight o'clock positions. The glands are connected to ducts that open to the vaginal canal and normally produce the mucus that provides lubrication. If the opening to the vaginal canal becomes blocked, such as by swollen tissues near the opening of the vagina, mucus can build up in the duct, creating a Bartholin's cyst.

Who is most likely to be affected

Bartholin's cysts are found in about three percent of women. There are no known risk factors for developing a Bartholin's cyst, although it may be more common with increasing age until menopause.

Treatment options and prevention for a Bartholin's cyst

Bartholin's cysts that do not cause any symptoms and routinely do not need to be treated. Bartholin's cysts that cause symptoms or disfigurement can usually be treated with a simple procedure in the office or emergency room.

Incision and drainage

Most Bartholin's cysts can initially be treated with an incision and drainage procedure. In this procedure, anesthesia is administered to the area, a small incision is made near the Bartholin's cyst, and the fluid inside drains spontaneously or is gently pushed out. This procedure is effective in treating the Bartholin's cyst; however, there is a high rate of cyst recurrence unless a Word catheter is placed into the cyst, as described below.

Placement of a Word catheter

A Word catheter is a latex tube with an inflatable balloon at the end. The balloon end is placed inside the drained Bartholin's cyst and then inflated, and the Word catheter is left in place for several weeks. This allows the skin to heal around the catheter, forming a "tunnel" that will remain open after the Word catheter is removed and thus preventing the Bartholin's cyst from reforming. After at least four weeks, the Word catheter can be deflated and removed in the office without anesthesia.

Marsupialization surgery

In this procedure, the Bartholin's cyst is cut open and allowed to drain like an incision and drainage, and then the sides of the cyst are sutured, leaving an opening. This allows any fluid that accumulates to directly drain through the opening and prevents the Bartholin's cyst from reforming. This procedure is usually done in the operating room for women who cannot receive a Word catheter or who have recurrent Bartholin's cysts despite receiving a Word catheter.

Laser treatment of the cyst

A carbon dioxide laser can be directed at the cyst to vaporize it. This procedure can be done in the office with local anesthesia and has good outcomes, but is generally used less often because the laser equipment and expertise required is not widely available.

Surgery to remove the entire Bartholin's gland

In rare cases of Bartholin's cysts that recur despite multiple surgeries, the Bartholin's gland can be removed. This procedure is done in the operating room and prevents the Bartholin's cyst from reforming. However, this procedure has a higher rate of complications, such as bleeding and scarring, compared to the other surgical options.

Ready to treat your bartholin's cyst?

We show you only the best treatments for your condition and symptoms—all vetted by our medical team. And when you’re not sure what’s wrong, Buoy can guide you in the right direction.See all treatment options
Illustration of two people discussing treatment.

When to seek further consultation for a Bartholin's cyst

You should go see your physician if you experience a bump in the vaginal area, vaginal pain, or pain with activity. He or she can perform an examination to determine if you have a Bartholin's cyst and then offer the appropriate treatments.

Hear what 1 other is saying
Once your story receives approval from our editors, it will exist on Buoy as a helpful resource for others who may experience something similar.
The stories shared below are not written by Buoy employees. Buoy does not endorse any of the information in these stories. Whenever you have questions or concerns about a medical condition, you should always contact your doctor or a healthcare provider.
My 2 cystsPosted December 17, 2023 by K.
I did not know I had bartholin cysts equally on both lower sides of the vagina until a doctor or boyfriend noticed early on at a young age. They never caused me any discomfort or disfiguration, although I would get caught off guard by the questions about them that I would have to answer. I would have to say "Oh yes I know about those cysts, that is rare but they are no problems for me, and then secretly hope that it is forgotten to them like it is for me. However in my mid 30's I was pregnant with my last child and during my last month of pregnancy the one on my left blew up to a painful golfball size that felt like a grapfruit size and I had to travel with the car seat reclined. My doctor immediately drained the cyst but it soon returned larger and I returned to the doctor who cut it open to drain it again and then packed really well with a long skinny strip of gauze, so that when I returned it felt like forever to pull out all the gauze completely. With success and relief the cyst finally felt normal like again with no difference to me, however post menopausal I began to notice slight drainage ongoing from both sides without any discomfort as they began to shrink down. Afterwards I was able to inspect and found a small hole hidden on the left side cyst where it had been plugged and shocked to see an empty cavity like that after all those years had passed. I'm uncertain if my good life experiences with these unusual cysts is common for this uncommon effect on the female anatomy, but even I sometimes wonder if they may have caused even slightly more pleasure for my partner although I never asked because it really didn't matter and I had no really bad issues from them.
Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
Read full bio

Was this article helpful?

8 people found this helpful
Tooltip Icon.
Read this next
Slide 1 of 6


  1. Omole F, Simmons BJ, Hacker Y. Management of Bartholin's duct cyst and gland abscess. American Family Physician. 2003;68(1):135-140. AAFP Link
  2. Haider Z, Condous G, Kirk E, Mukri F, Bourne T. The simple outpatient management of Bartholin's abscess using the Word catheter: A preliminary study. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2007;47(2):137-140. NCBI Link
  3. Reif P, Ulrich D, Bjelic-Radisic V, Hausler M, Schnedl-Lamprecht E, Tamussino K. Management of Bartholin's cyst and abscess using the Word catheter: Implementation, recurrence rates and costs. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2015;190:81-4. NCBI Link
  4. Bartholin's Cyst. Mayo Clinic. Published April 26, 2018. Mayo Clinic Link
  5. Bartholin's gland cyst. Harvard Medical School: Harvard Health Publishing. Published February 2016. Harvard Health Publishing Link
  6. Bartholin cyst. BMJ Best Practice. Updated March 2018. BMJ Best Practice Link
  7. Heller DS, Bean S. Lesions of the Bartholin gland: A review. J Low Genit Tract Dis. 2014;18(4):351-7. NCBI Link