Vaginal / Vulval cysts
The vaginal cysts can be caused by injury during childbirth, fluid collection in your glands or noncancerous growths within the vagina.
What are the different types of vaginal cysts?
The most common types include vaginal inclusion cysts, Gartner’s duct cysts, and Bartholin’s cysts.
Vaginal Inclusion Cysts These are the most common type of vaginal cysts. It may occur during the birth of a baby or after a surgery. This type of cyst is caused by an injury to the wall of the vagina. Most of the time, these cysts do not cause any symptoms thereby do not require any treatment.
Gartner duct cysts It develop on the side walls of the vagina. This duct is present while a baby is developing in the womb but will most often disappear after birth. If parts of the duct remain, they may collect fluid and develop into a vaginal wall cyst later in life. It is usually asymptomatic and does not require any treatment.
The Bartholin’s Cyst Bartholin’s gland is located near the opening of the vagina on the vaginal lips, or labia. If a flap of skin grows over this gland, fluid can back up into the gland and form a cyst. The cyst is usually painless. If this cyst becomes infected, it can cause an abscess.
Around 1 in every 50 women will develop a Bartholin’s cyst or abscess at some point. It usually affects sexually active women aged between 20 and 30.
Bartholin’s cysts don’t usually affect children because the Bartholin’s glands don’t start functioning until puberty. The cysts are also uncommon after the menopause as this usually causes the Bartholin’s glands to shrink.
What are the symptoms?
You may feel a soft, painless lump. This doesn’t usually cause any problems. However, if the cyst grows very large, it can become noticeable and uncomfortable. If the cyst becomes infected, it can cause a painful collection of pus to develop in one of the Bartholin’s glands. Small Bartholin’s cysts are sometimes only found during a routine cervical screening test or an examination carried out for another reason.
What is the treatment?
If you don’t have any noticeable symptoms, it’s unlikely you’ll need treatment.
If the cyst is painful, you can try simple measures, such as soaking the cyst in warm water several times a day for three or four days and taking over-the-counter painkillers.
What are the surgical options?
If above treatments do not work or the cyst gets infected with symptoms, then you may need surgical intervention. The surgery is usually minor and can be done under local or general anaesthesia. It is done as a day case procedure and you will be able to go home the same day. A number of techniques can be used to drain a Bartholin’s cyst or abscess and reduce the likelihood of it returning.
The commonly used surgical options are:
Balloon catheter insertion
Balloon catheter insertion is a simple procedure where after a small cut, a small balloon is used to create a passage to drain the fluid from the abscess or cyst.
A permanent passage is created to drain away any fluid that builds up in the future. This is an outpatient procedure, which means you won’t need to stay in hospital overnight.
If a cyst or abscess keeps coming back, a surgical procedure known as marsupialisation may be used.
The cyst is first opened with a cut and the fluid is drained out. The edges of the skin are then stitched to leave a small opening which allows any further fluid to drain out.
After the procedure, avoid having sex and using tampons for up to four weeks to reduce chances of any infection.