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Bartholin Gland Cyst

June 6, 2011

There’s nothing like finding a strange lump on your body to make your heart skip a few beats (in a bad way). Two things happen: 1. you think of cancer and 2. if the lump is located on or near your genitals you think sexually transmitted disease. The possibilities are no good, because either way you think you’re going to die or your sex life is ruined for the foreseeable future. It’s no good. You’re scared and with the overwhelming presence of the Internet it’s too easy to play doctor and try to figure out what the hell is wrong with you.

If you’re a little bit of a hypochondriac like me, you’ll find plenty of diseases that fit your symptoms whatever they may be. You might just have a zit on your ass, but all of a sudden you’re convinced it’s a tumour that will kill you in under 6 months. It’s a good thing that as well as being a little bit of a hypochondriac, I’m also pretty logical, or else I would con myself into an early grave on a regular basis.

The other day, I had a weird mass in my neck and even though I kept telling myself it was nothing, I couldn’t help but think it was cancer. The funny thing is that as soon as I think there’s something wrong with me, I don’t want to go to the hospital. I mean who does, I’d rather wait and see if it goes away on its own. Benign things do that, right, they disappear on their own? That’s what happened to the lump in my neck, it went away on its own. It was probably a weird tension knot in the muscles in my neck. At least that’s the story I’m sticking with…

Even scarier, is finding a lump in your breast or on your genitals. It’s a mysterious place down there, full of glands and ducts, etc. The entire female reproductive and sexual system is a wonder of biology. There’s always something new to discover about it, but when you stumble upon something that isn’t usually there when you’re in the shower, it’s really easy to jump to conclusions. Good thing I’m pretty anal about using protection or I would have assumed the worst when I found a lump, which was painful to the touch,  next to the opening of my vagina.

Bartholin Cyst

First thing I did, after a little bout of nervous panic, was google the hell out of what it could possibly be. That’s how I discovered the wonder that is the Bartholin gland:

The Bartholin’s glands are located on each side of the vaginal opening. These glands secrete fluid that helps lubricate the vagina. Sometimes the openings of these glands become obstructed, causing fluid to back up into the gland. The result is relatively painless swelling called a Bartholin cyst (…)

A Bartholin cyst or abscess is common. Treatment of a Bartholin cyst depends on the size of the cyst, the pain and whether the cyst is infected. Sometimes home treatment is all you need. In other cases, surgical drainage of the Bartholin cyst is necessary. If an infection occurs, antibiotics may be helpful to treat the infected Bartholin cyst.

If the cyst remains small and no infection occurs, you may not notice it. If it grows, you might feel the presence of a lump or mass near your vaginal opening. Although a cyst is usually painless, it can be tender.

If the cyst becomes infected — a full-blown infection can occur in a matter of days — you may experience the following signs and symptoms:

  • A tender or painful lump near the vaginal opening
  • Discomfort while walking or sitting
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Fever

Call your doctor if you have a painful lump near the opening of your vagina that doesn’t improve after two or three days of self-care treatment — for instance, soaking the area in warm water (sitz bath). If the pain is severe, make an appointment with your doctor right away.

Experts believe that the cause of a Bartholin cyst is a backup of fluid. Fluid may accumulate when the opening of the gland (duct) becomes obstructed, perhaps by the growth of a flap of skin or because of infection. (Mayo Clinic)

In my case, the cyst was rather small and soaking in a hot bath was enough to make it go away on its own in a couple of days. I didn’t go to the hospital, because I trusted the information I found on the Internet as well as what I know about my own body, and since the cyst diminished in proportion after two to three days and went away completely on its own there was no reason to panic, but if this ever happens to you and the Bartholin cyst doesn’t get better after a couple of days and a few soak in a hot bath, you should go see a doctor, because other treatment methods might be warranted. You wouldn’t want to cyst to get infected and become an abscess. Either way, it’s always better to be on the safe side.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2011 7:36 pm

    You. Are. Just. Plain. Awesome. Chapeau mon amie!!! xox Victoria

  2. June 29, 2011 8:06 pm

    Wow, thanks! I was a little aprehensive about writting this post…because, well it’s embarassing to have people imagine you with a “diseased vagina”. But I guess that’s why I wrote it too, so people (including myself) would get over the whole “ick” factor or rather the fear of being associated with something “icky”…

  3. July 6, 2011 3:56 pm

    I had a really nasty abscess on one of my bartholins glands when I was pregnant. It was unbelievably painful!! The midwife lanced it during one of my ante-natal visits saying it wouldn’t be good to have the thing burst during labour!!
    As for lumps….a few weeks ago I found a lump on Phil’s penis, a real shock! We have discovered that he has Peyronies Disease. (Google it if you want to know more).
    The joys of getting old…….

  4. July 6, 2011 4:02 pm

    The joys of getting old, huh? Not always the best case scenario, but I’m assuming that you guys are going to be okay. It could always be much worse. Not always a comforting thought, but you guys are sure to support each other through this…

    Oh man, that would have been painful had in burst during childbirth!

    Being a midwife sounds like an interesting occupation. Sometimes, I think about looking into it.

  5. July 6, 2011 4:05 pm

    “Looking into it” huh? As a midwife you get to look into lots of things!!!! (Funny or what?)

  6. July 6, 2011 4:23 pm


  7. Cate permalink
    September 18, 2011 11:05 pm

    So about a month ago I wound up with my feet pinned up in Dr. Vagina’s stirrups. This woman is awesome, she makes me laugh all the time and I swear, she is a bonafide lesbian which makes going to her even more interesting.

    Anyway, Dr. Vagina, through a smile—bless my heart—explained that my BOTH my glands were swollen. Nothing to be done. Just had to wait it out. She assuaged my cancer fear (had it twice before) and told me SITZ baths were ideal. She also explained that is why sex was a wee bit unconfortable.

    Light bulb anyone?

    Tonight when posting a comment, I saw the post title and remembered having read it way back when! Wish I had remembered it in August! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. September 18, 2011 11:22 pm

    Cool. Well I’m glad it wasn’t anything serious this time around. Your gyno sounds awesome.

    I was just thinking yesterday that it’s been over a year since I’ve gone for a pap smear…I moved a year ago and I don’t have a doc where I am now. And there are no clinics either. I’ll figure something out though, because it’s important to stay on top of those things.

    What’s funny, is that when I was thinking about my future imaginary visit to the gyno…my mind started wandering, as it does, and I though it would be kind of funny/odd to ask him or her what they thought of my vagina. As in, what’s it like down there? Everything normal? What’s your honest opinion on my vag from a clinical point of view? I’d be curious to see how they would answer that.

    I wonder if it’s a question gynos get alot?

  9. September 19, 2011 10:40 am

    When I had my post-natal checkup way back in 1993(?) following the birth of my second, the GP, a woman and a family friend, came up with the comment ” My goodness Julia, it looks like chopped liver down here” as she gazed at my bits! Then she gave me an internal and followed up her comment with “…and it’s a bit slack too!” Needless to say I doubled my efforts when it came to my pelvic floor exercises after that!!

  10. September 19, 2011 11:10 am

    Whoa, I can’t believe she said that, especially the chop liver comment. Damn.

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