Bartholin abscess is the buildup of pus that forms a lump (swelling) in one of the Bartholin glands. These glands are found on each side of the vaginal opening.
A Bartholin abscess forms when a small opening (duct) from the gland gets blocked. Fluid in the gland builds up and may become infected. Fluid may build up over many years before an abscess occurs.
The health care provider will do a pelvic exam. The Bartholin gland will be enlarged and tender. A biopsy may be recommended in older women to look for a tumor, although this is very rare.
Any vaginal discharge or fluid drainage will be sent to a lab for testing.
Soaking in warm water four times a day for several days can ease the discomfort. It can also help the abscess open and drain on its own. However, the opening is often very small and closes quickly. Therefore, the abscess often returns.
DRAINAGE OF THE ABSCESS
A small surgical cut can completely drain the abscess. This relieves symptoms and provides the fastest recovery.
Antibiotics may be prescribed if there is pus or other signs of infection.
Women can also be treated with a minor surgical procedure called marsupialization.
Your health care provider may recommend that the glands be completely removed if abscesses keep coming back.
The chance of a full recovery is excellent. The abscesses return in about 1 in 10 cases.
It is important to treat any vaginal infection that is diagnosed at the same time as the abscess.
Call your health care provider if:
Abscess - Bartholin; Infected Bartholin gland
Holtzman LC, Hitti E, Harrow J. Incision and drainage. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds. Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2013:chap 37.
Eckert LO, Lentz GM. Infections of the lower genital tract: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome, endometritis, and salpingitis. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 23.
Updated by: Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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