The Skene’s glands were first described by Dr. Alexander Johnston Chalmers Skene in the late nineteenth century. While perhaps not widely known, Skene’s glands play an important role in both sexual and physical health.
Occasionally, Skene’s glands can become inflamed or infected. This may lead to further complications if left untreated. Cancers of the glands are also possible, though rare.
Read on to learn more about the Skene’s glands and what to do if you suspect any health issues.
Skene’s glands consist of two small ducts located along both sides of the urethra, in the front part of the vaginal wall.
Also known as the “female prostate,” these glands aren’t actually the same prostate glands in male anatomy. However, the nickname prevails due to similarities with the male prostate gland, including the ability to drain fluids into the urethra.
Other names for Skene’s glands include:
- Skene’s ducts
- vestibular glands
- paraurethral glands
- periurethral glands
Skene’s glands play important roles in both urinary and sexual health.
First, the glands release fluids into the urethra, helping to lubricate it. The urethra itself is a tube that’s an important part of the urinary system, as it’s responsible for moving urine out of the bladder.
It’s also thought that Skene’s glands contain antimicrobial substances. When released, these may help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Like the male prostate gland, Skene’s glands also play a role in sexual health. When aroused, the Skene’s glands and the clitoris become swollen due to increased blood flow to the area.
As the Skene’s glands become stimulated, they secrete mucus-containing fluids, which help with lubrication during vaginal intercourse.
Skene’s glands may become infected, which can also affect the urethra. On the flipside, an infection of the urethra could also infect your Skene’s glands. Cysts may develop in the gland, but cancer is rare.
Below is a breakdown of some of the most common issues with the Skene’s glands and what symptoms you need to look out for:
Common signs of a UTI include increased urination; cloudy, smelly urine; and painful urination. This is a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics for treatment.
Skenitis is an infection of the Skene’s glands, which can also cause the surrounding tissues to become inflamed. Gonorrhea is the most common cause of this type of infection, but it may also be caused by a UTI.
Due to its close proximity to the urethra, associated medical issues may originate in the Skene’s glands. It’s also possible for Skene’s glands to become infected when there are issues with the urethra, such as a UTI.
Skenitis may cause some of the same symptoms as a UTI, but you may also notice pelvic pain, as well as pain during intercourse. This infection is treated with antibiotics, but surgery may be required if the infection progresses.
While cancer of the Skene’s glands is possible,
It’s suspected that malignant cysts may develop in these ducts as a result of untreated skenitis. The cysts may block the opening of your urethra, causing an inability to pass urine (urinary retention).
A suspected UTI, or an infection of the Skene’s glands or surrounding area is promptly treated with antibiotics. Your doctor will diagnose a UTI with a urine sample. Imaging tests may be required to detect skenitis.
Imaging tests, such as an MRI, can help diagnose cancerous cysts of the Skene’s glands. Your doctor may suspect cancer if they see a displacement of the opening of the urethra from a cyst. This type of cyst also contains a milk-like fluid.
Cancer of the Skene’s glands may be treated with radiation therapy when detected early. The longer the cancer progresses, the higher the likelihood of surgery.
Surgical removal of tumors may also be required if the cancer spreads to surrounding areas, such as the urethra or bladder.
It’s also possible to develop cysts along the Skene’s glands that aren’t cancerous (benign). In such cases, your doctor may recommend draining the cysts so they don’t cause further issues with your urinary system.
Both benign and cancerous cysts of the Skene’s glands are considered rare.
You should see your doctor right away if you experience any of the following symptoms:
While more research needs to be done on the exact benefits of the Skene’s glands, it’s been established that these small ducts along each side of the urethra play a role in both physical and sexual health.
Despite their small size, Skene’s glands are sometimes prone to health complications. These include infections and, less commonly, cysts that may be either benign or malignant.
Due to the complexity of the urinary system, it’s important to see a doctor if you experience any pelvic pain or changes in urination. Prompt treatment can help prevent further complications, such as kidney damage from UTIs.