Vaginal cysts are closed pockets of air, fluid, or pus located on or under the vaginal lining. There are several types of vaginal cysts. These can be caused by injury during childbirth, fluid buildup in your glands, or benign (noncancerous) tumors within the vagina.

The cysts typically don’t cause any symptoms, but they can sometimes cause discomfort with sexual activity or insertion of tampons. Vaginal cysts usually remain small and often don’t require treatment. However, different types of cysts may become enlarged and lead to pain, itching, or an increased risk of infection.

There are many types of vaginal cysts. The most common types include vaginal inclusion cysts, Gartner’s duct cysts, and Bartholin’s cysts. Benign tumors in the vagina may resemble cysts.

Vaginal inclusion cysts

Vaginal inclusion cysts are the most common type of vaginal cysts. This type of cyst is caused by an injury to the wall of the vagina, and may occur during childbirth or after a surgery

Gartner’s duct cysts

The Gartner’s duct is a remnant organ in the female pelvis from a women’s fetal development. It can sometimes accumulate fluid and later develop into a cyst on the walls of the vagina.

Bartholin’s cyst

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, This cyst is usually painless. If the cyst becomes infected, it can become an abscess.

There are typically no symptoms associated with vaginal cysts. You 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 the vagina, or if you develop bulging from the vagina.

During a routine pelvic exam, your OB-GYN may feel the mass on the vaginal wall. They will review your medical history and ask what symptoms you’re having. Your doctor might also suggest additional tests to rule out other conditions. Tests may include:

  • a biopsy of a tissue sample from the cyst to rule out the possibility of vaginal cancer
  • tests on the secretions from the vagina or cervix to determine if a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is present
  • an MRI scan, CT scan, or ultrasound to see detailed images of the cyst

Vaginal cysts should be monitored for growth or changes in appearance during routine exams. If the cyst grows larger or causes severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the cyst. If the cyst causes an infection or abscess, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

Complications due to vaginal cysts are rare. However, cysts may grow 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. Cysts are usually benign and often remain small. Cysts that are surgically removed usually won’t occur again.

Q:

If there are no obvious symptoms of vaginal cysts, how can you tell when you have them? What are the best ways to prevent them from occurring?

A:

Cysts appear either from a trauma event, like childbirth, or clogging of glands, traditionally from infections. Pain is usually the most common complaint of women who have a vaginal cyst. Pain from cysts can be relieved with warm baths.

With intercourse, use appropriate methods to avoid transmission of infections (for example, condoms). If a cyst is infected, your doctor may have to drain it. If a cyst is detected, it should be monitored by your doctor for changes in size or compression on any other organ.

Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COIAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.