Bartholin’s gland cysts, which are cysts that develop around the vaginal opening, are the most common type of cyst to occur in women of reproductive age, according to American Family Physician. About two out of 10 women are likely to develop a Bartholin’s gland cyst or cysts at some time in their life. It most commonly occurs in women during their 20s.
Since they’re often asymptomatic, many women don’t realize that they have Bartholin’s cysts. When they start to grow or become infected, when the doctor refers to them as an “abscess”, then pain at the site is quite common. In addition to pain, other symptoms may include pain during sex and walking. Also, a large cyst may cause one side of a woman’s labia majora, the folds of skin outside of the vagina, to hang low. Some women also develop a fever or have abnormal vaginal discharge.
What is a Bartholin’s gland cyst?
Located on each side of the vaginal opening, the pea-size Bartholin’s glands help produce the fluid that maintains moisture in the vagina. When the ducts become blocked, it results in swelling or a cyst. These cysts are rarely cancerous.
What causes it?
Doctors are not sure why some women develop Bartholin’s cysts. In some cases, the tubes become blocked due to a sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. There is no way to decipher if you have a Bartholin’s gland cyst without a visit to your physician. After collecting a sample of your vaginal discharge, it will be sent to a lab to test.
What are the treatment options?
For women under 40 years old, the doctor may recommend a biopsy which involves taking a tissue sample from the cyst, to test for vulvar cancer.
CO2 laser treatment removes the cyst or cysts without affecting the Bartholin’s glands. The CO2 lasers vaporizes and removes the Bartholin’s cyst quickly while leaving the glands intact. This procedure can be performed in an outpatient setting and requires little intra- or postoperative recovery.
Other treatments for Bartholin’s cysts include, taking a sitz bath, antibiotics or surgery that requires a hospital visit and stay. The surgeries may involve the removal of the Bartholin’s glands
How effective is CO2 laser treatment?
In a 2016 study, 31 women had their Bartholin’s cysts treated with CO2 lasers in an outpatient setting. During the procedure, after the skin was incised, a laser beam opened, drained and then vaporized the abscesses. None of the women developed any complications and only five had a recurrence. Patients reported little intraoperative pain.
This study demonstrated that laser treatment can be used safely in an outpatient setting with low rates of recurrence and without fear of complications. In addition, patients reported a high level of satisfaction.
If left untreated, a cyst can lead to serious complications. Besides pain, the cyst can become infected and eventually burst. When an abscess ruptures inside the body it can potentially lead to blood poisoning.
What should you expect during and after treatment?
Thanks to the minimally invasive approach of CO2 laser treatment, the procedure can be completed in about seven minutes. This treatment begins by applying a topical antisepsis and then a local anesthesia. Using the CO2 laser incisions are made which helps to drain the abscess. The interior is then cleaned with a sterile saline solution. During the procedure the laser vaporizes and destroys the capsule tissue.
What is the recovery like?
After treatment, you should soak in a sitz bath several times a day for three or four days. Fill your bathtub with a few inches of warm water and a solution of povidone-iodine. In addition, abstain from any sexual activity two to three weeks post treatment. Dr. Ghozland will prescribe antibiotics and analgesics if you present any sign of infection.
To learn more about this effective, yet minimally invasive surgery and to see if it’s right for you, schedule a free consultation today.