Types, symptoms, causes and treatment

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  • Vaginal cysts come in four main types, including Bartholin’s gland and Müllerian cysts.
  • Most vaginal cysts go away on their own and do not require medical treatment.
  • See a doctor if the cyst persists, increases in size, or causes pain after two months.

Vaginal cysts are common, affecting an estimated 1 in 200 women at some point in their lives. While most vaginal cysts are painless and harmless, some types are more susceptible to infection and can become red, swollen, and tender if left untreated.

The most important thing to know about these cysts, however, is that they’re not usually a cause for concern, says Kenosha Gleaton, MD, a board-certified OB-GYN at The Epicenter and Natalist Medical Advisor.

The vast majority of cysts are noncancerous, and most often they are asymptomatic and go away on their own over time, requiring no treatment.

“The human body tends to develop various lumps and bumps, and cysts are just one type of growth that many people get,” she says. “They aren’t usually harmful or even painful.”

Below, experts share how to tell what type of vaginal cyst you may have, what caused it, and when to seek treatment.

types

There are many different types of vaginal cysts, ranging in size from a pea to a large golf ball.

To determine which type you have, it’s important to note the location and size of the cyst. Here’s a breakdown of the four main types of vaginal cysts.

1. Bartholin gland cysts

A very common type of cyst develops on the Bartholin’s glands, which are located near the opening of the vagina on either side of the labia (labium).

This type of vaginal cyst, called a Bartholin gland cyst, occurs when a flap of skin overgrows the gland and fluid becomes trapped within it. It accounts for about 27.5% of vaginal cysts

Like other vaginal cysts, these usually go away on their own and are usually painless — but may be accompanied by some tenderness or discomfort while sitting, walking, or having sex.

However, if Bartholin’s gland cysts become infected, they can become a painful, pus-filled abscess, which may be necessary


antibiotics

or a minor intervention to drain it. In addition, there is a chance that the cyst will return even if you treat it.

2. Gartner duct cysts

About 17.5% of vaginal cysts are Gartner duct cysts, making them slightly rarer than other types.

These cysts develop on the side walls of the vagina and usually go unnoticed because they are so small, measuring less than 2 centimeters.

As a result, people typically only find out they have a Gartner cyst during a pelvic exam, ultrasound, or other independent doctor’s appointment.

3. Inclusion cysts

Inclusion cysts account for about 25% of vaginal cysts. These are usually very small and are located on the lower back of the vaginal wall.

Depending on their size and location, they can cause discomfort or pain during sex — but more often than not, people with inclusion cysts are asymptomatic.

4. Müller cysts

About 30% of vaginal cysts are Müllerian cysts, making them the most common type.

Like other vaginal cysts, they’re usually small, painless, and go unnoticed until a doctor examines them, Gleaton says.

Mullerian cysts are most common in women between the ages of 30 and 40 and can grow anywhere on the vaginal walls, Gleaton says.

symptoms

The majority of cysts, especially small ones, are asymptomatic, says Karyn Eilber, MD, a board-certified urologist specializing in female pelvic medicine at Cedars-Sinai Hospital.

“You may just feel a small lump on the vaginal wall or on the labia,” says Gleaton.

However, Gleaton cautions that as cysts get larger — especially Bartholin gland cysts — they can cause discomfort or pain during sex or when inserting a tampon.

Cysts are more likely to cause pain if they become infected, Gleaton says. Symptoms of infection include:

  • tenderness or pain at the site
  • Discomfort or pain when walking and/or sitting
  • Fever

causes

The cause of a vaginal cyst depends on its type, according to Gleaton.

“Vaginal cysts usually form when a gland or duct becomes blocked, causing fluid or other material to collect in it,” she says.

  • inclusion cysts are caused by trauma to the vaginal walls – for example, after an episiotomy during childbirth or after an operation that damaged the vaginal lining.
  • Bartholin gland cysts form when the opening to the Bartholin’s glands, which produce fluid that lubricates the vagina, becomes blocked. This causes the lubricating fluid to back up. They can be caused by injury or irritation to the vulva area of ​​the vagina, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or certain bacterial infections.
  • Gartner duct cysts are caused when the Gartner duct – an organ that forms while a baby is developing in the womb – does not go away as intended after birth. If parts of the duct remain, they can collect fluid and eventually form a cyst, Gleaton says.
  • Müllerian cysts Form as a result of embryonic remains or materials related to the development of a fetus that are left behind after birth, Eilber said.

treatment

A vaginal cyst is usually diagnosed by your gynecologist during an exam, Gleaton says, and treatment depends on your symptoms.

For example, if the cyst is so large that it makes everyday movements uncomfortable, your doctor may recommend one of the following options:

  • surgical removal
  • Catheter insertion to drain it
  • Marsupialization, another way to drain the cyst through a small incision

On the other hand, if you have signs of infection, your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics. Or if the cyst is producing discharge, they may test the fluid for STIs or other bacterial infections.

However, if you think you have a vaginal cyst but it’s asymptomatic and tender to the touch, you can wait and see if it goes away on its own, according to Eilber. Cysts usually resolve within one to three weeks.

Or if the cyst is small and only slightly uncomfortable, you can try to relieve the discomfort by sitting in a shallow, warm water bath, commonly known as a “sitz bath,” several times a day, Gleaton says.

Insider snack

There are many different types of vaginal cysts, each occurring in different locations. The cause of the cyst depends on the type.

Regardless of the type, it’s important to remember that vaginal cysts are rarely dangerous. They’re also usually asymptomatic and painless — unless they become infected or grow large.

If you suspect you have a vaginal cyst but don’t have any symptoms, you can wait and see if it goes away on its own. However, if it grows, becomes painful, or shows other symptoms, experts strongly advise seeing your doctor for an evaluation and diagnosis.

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