What Is the Bartholin's Gland For And What Causes Bartholin's Cysts?

You basically have no reason at all to think about your Bartholin's glands, and therefore no one does think of it on a day to day basis. The only occasion to think of it, generally, is infection. Their purpose is to secrete fluid for the vagina, yet when one becomes non-functional or there is removal of a gland rarely do these things cause a woman to notice increased dryness

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The two Bartholin glands sit at the opening of the vagina, at approximately 4 and 8 o'clock.  If though initial infection, or debris the duct becomes obstructed, mucus produced by the gland accumulates, leading to a ballooning  of the duct behind the obstruction. Bartholin's Gland cysts are the most common cysts of the vulva.

Inflammation of this area can also product generalized vulvar edema and that in turn can cause further obstruction. Bartholin duct infections settle into a soft structure usually somewhere in size between a pea and a grape that is fluid filled known as a Bartholin's cyst.  Bartholin's cysts are usually sterile, not painful, not changing in size and, again, you can cease thinking about it. Many women will keep them for years.

Bartholin duct cysts are usually unilateral, they don't typically change with the menstrual cycle, but if infected again they will swell. Larger cysts may cause discomfort, typically during sexual intercourse, sitting, or when walking. A biopsy is not necessary except women over age 40, for whom some experts suggest drainage and a biopsy be performed to exclude cancer.

In younger women a minor procedure to sew open the tiny duct so it can heal and not reform a fluid collection is often recommended, and that is a marsupialization. Oddly, not everyone has the same kind of gland, there are many tissues that can be present on a microscopic level forming the gland, and depending on the tissue will depend on the success of the marsupialiation.  Sewing the gland open
 An obstructed Bartholin duct can become infected and form an abscess. If cultured the abscess will likely have E. coli, Strep, or Group B strep. STIs might be the initial cause but not always. Should your gland swell, and give you such severe pain you cannot
walk, sit, or have sex, you need to be seen. When the Bartholin's abscess is very close to the skin surface, pus may break through and drain on it's own. Otherwise you may need to see your gynecologist for evaluation and drainage.  Immediate pain relief should occur once it is drained.  Women with abscesses that  rupture spontaneously may only need  pain medication and it's important to keep clean and help to clear all the pus by soaking of the affected side with warm compresses or with Sitz baths.


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