As the name suggests, vulvar cyst pertains to female anatomy. Vulva is considered to be the outer part of the female genital tract, an entrance of the vagina. It is not a single part, but an area made up of outer lips called labia majora, the inner smaller lips called labia minora, hymen, urethral opening, clitoris and small glandular structures called Bartholin gland and skene glands.
Development of cysts in any of these glands is called vulvar cysts. A cyst is a closed sac which mostly consists of sticky and gelatinous fluid, if it is not infected.
Bartholin glands are very tiny glands which cannot be felt normally even when you touch the vulvar region. They lie in between the folds of labia majora and minora. The skene glands are located higher up in the vulvar area. Bartholin glands secrete sticky fluid to keep the vaginal area moist. It also helps in cleansing the dead cells and debris from the vaginal area. Bartholin gland also acts as a lubricating agent during sexual intercourse or when the female is sexually aroused.
Bartholin cyst develops when the tube which carries the serous fluid from the gland to its opening near the labial folds gets blocked. Due to the blockage there is a build up serous fluid inside the gland, and this makes the Bartholin gland to increase in size. It is an established fact that at least 3 percent of women are known to suffer from vulvar cysts. Most of them remain undetected as the size of the cyst is small.
Causes Of Vulvar Cysts
It is still not clear why vulvar cysts develop. Some researchers contribute their development to hormonal changes that occur in females. Change in hormones can affect structural chemistry of the fluids in the body. This may also affect the serous fluid present in the skene and Bartholin glands. As a result, the tube which carries the fluid may get blocked.
Infection of the female genital tract, especially sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea is also thought to be a valid reason for development of vulvar cyst and even abscesses.
Lastly, improper blood circulation in the vulvar region due to lack of sexual stimulation in females who are not sexually active is believed to be the cause for vulvar cyst development.
Symptoms Of Vulvar Cysts
Most cases of vulvar cyst remain undetected. This is because their size is too small, and the patient cannot palpate it even when she touches her genital region. However, when the size of the cyst increases it becomes an object of hindarance for the female when she is walking or while sitting. This is especially true with Bartholin cysts. Usually bartholin cysts is one sided. During sexual intercourse it can cause pain.
In case of skene cysts which are located near the urethral opening, the women may find difficulty while passing urine, it especially happens when the cyst is large in size. Sometime it may also block urinary flow. The woman may find difficulty while passing urine in the beginning. If the gland gets infected, chances of urinary tract infection such as burning urine and painful urination increase.
Vulvar cyst becomes extremely painful if it gets infected. On rare occasions patient may also complain of fever and other systemic symptoms.
Vulvar Cysts Treatment Options
Vulvar cysts such as Bartholin cysts and skene cysts most of the time are treated conservatively. It means without involvement of surgical approach. However, it depends on the size of cyst and its symptoms severity.
- If the cyst is small, usually doctors advise Sitz bath. Here the patient has to sit in a bathtub filled with lukewarm water for 10 to 15 minutes, 2 to 3 times in a day. After a week or two the cyst usually gets cured or it drains out.
- Secondly, patient should follow strict hygienic practice to avoid secondary bacterial infection of the cyst. The doctor may also prescribe antibiotics if there is possibility of cyst getting infected.
- If the vulvar cyst is large and if it is painful, or if there is development of an abscess, the other option is to incise and drain the abscess.
- In case of recurrent occurrence of cyst, marsupialisation procedure is performed. It is a type of surgical repair.
- Lastly when all methods fail, surgical removal of vulvar cyst is considered.