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For further information, see CMDT Part 18-08: Bartholin Duct Cysts & Abscesses

Key Features

  • Trauma or infection may cause obstruction of the gland; drainage of secretions is prevented, leading to pain, swelling, and abscess formation

  • The infection usually resolves and pain disappears, but stenosis of the duct outlet with distention often persists

  • Reinfection causes recurrent tenderness and further enlargement of the duct

Clinical Findings

  • Periodic painful swelling on either side of the introitus and consequent dyspareunia

  • A fluctuant swelling 1–4 cm in diameter lateral to either labium minus is a sign of occlusion of Bartholin duct

  • Tenderness is evidence of active infection


  • Pus or secretions from the gland should be cultured for Chlamydia and other pathogens


  • Treat according to culture results

  • Frequent warm soaks may be helpful

  • If an abscess develops, aspiration or incision and drainage are the simplest forms of therapy, but the problem may recur

  • Marsupialization (in the absence of an abscess), incision and drainage with the insertion of an indwelling Word catheter, or laser treatment will establish a new duct opening. Antibiotics are unnecessary unless cellulitis is present

  • An asymptomatic cyst does not require therapy

  • In women under 40 years of age, asymptomatic cysts do not require therapy

  • In women over age 40, biopsy or removal are recommended to rule out vulvar carcinoma

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