Vaginal cysts are closed pockets of air, fluid, or pus located on or under the vaginal lining. There are several types of vaginal cysts, which can be caused by injury during childbirth, fluid buildup in glands, or benign (noncancerous) tumors within the vagina.
The cysts typically do not cause any symptoms, but may cause slight discomfort. Vaginal cysts typically remain small and often do not require treatment. However, different types of cysts may become enlarged and lead to pain, itching, or increase the risk of infection.
There are many types of vaginal cysts. The most common types include vaginal inclusion cysts, Gartner’s duct cysts, and Batholin’s cyst.
Vaginal Inclusion Cysts
Vaginal inclusion cysts are the most common type of vaginal cysts. These 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.
Gartner’s Duct Cysts
The Gartner’s duct is found while a fetus is developing in a woman’s womb. The duct usually disappears after giving birth. However, if the duct remains after giving birth, it can accumulate fluid and later can develop into a cyst on the side walls of the vagina. According to a 2011 report published by Emergency Medicine News, Gartner’s ducts are found in about 25 percent of adult women. Almost one percent of these ducts will turn into Gartner’s duct cysts (Letizia & Kelly, 2011).
The Bartholin’s gland is located near the opening of the vagina on the vaginal lips (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. An abscess is a collection of pus. According to American Family Physician (AFP), Bartholin’s cysts occur in about two percent of women (AFP, 1998).
Additionally, benign (noncancerous) tumors in the vagina are usually made up of cysts.
There are typically no symptoms associated with vaginal cysts. A woman may notice a small lump protruding from the wall of the vagina or have pain or discomfort during sex or while inserting a tampon. Call your doctor if you notice a lump inside or bulging from the vagina.
During a routine pelvic exam, a gynecologist may feel the mass on the vaginal wall. A gynecologist is a doctor who specializes in treating and preventing diseases of the reproductive organs. They may also review your medical history and ask what symptoms, if any, you may be experiencing. Your doctor may also wish to perform additional tests to rule out certain conditions, such as:
- biopsy (tissue sample from the cyst) to rule out the possibility of vaginal cancer
- testing secretions from the vagina or cervix to determine if a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is present
- X-ray imaging if cysts are located under the bladder or in the urethra
Vaginal cysts should be monitored for growth during routine exams. If the cyst grows larger and/or causes severe symptoms, surgery to remove the cyst may be performed. If a cyst causes an infection or abscess, antibiotics may be prescribed.
Complications due to vaginal cysts are rare. However, cysts may become enlarged over time, which can lead to increased pain and discomfort, and can also increase the risk of infection. Surgery to remove a cyst may carry a risk of infection or other complications at the excision site.
The outlook is generally very good. These cysts are usually benign and will remain small. Cysts that are surgically removed usually will not reoccur.