Dear Alice,

My wife discovered an unnatural lump on the one side of the labia some four years ago. It was small and never bothered her. She is currently twenty-three-years-old. After we got married recently, and she became sexually active, the lump has increased in size, and is sometimes painful. I took her to the local ER where the GP on duty examined her and diagnosed it as a Barcelona Cyst. He consulted with the Gyn on call who wanted to remove the cyst the next morning under general anesthesia. We decided to wait and get a second opinion since we don't favour the idea of general anesthesia. He also prescribed wide spectrum antibiotic for one week because he said that the cyst look infected. The cyst is approx 2 cm x 1 cm big and quite hard.

I can find no reference to a "Barcelona" cyst. Could you please give some more information and some advice? Thank you.


Dear James,

On either side of the vaginal opening is a pair of glands called the Bartholin ("Barcelona" was close) or vestibular glands. The Bartholin glands produce the fluid that lubes the vulva's inner lips. Located on each side of the entrance into the vagina (introitus), this substance can ease penetration. If the opening to either of these glands becomes blocked, a Bartholin cyst is formed. This cyst can make a bulge in the lip near the opening of the vagina. The cyst can also swell and become tender.

Small, uninfected Bartholin cysts may not have to be treated, but should be monitored by a health care provider. Bartholin cysts can become infected, and form what are known as abscesses. Abscesses can be excruciatingly painful and require treatment, such as oral antibiotics. Cysts that cause pain or other problems can be drained by the provider by inserting a small tube (called a catheter) into the gland, or by making an incision directly into the gland itself. In some cases, surgical removal of the Bartholin gland is recommended, particularly for women with recurrent cysts. Once cysts are treated with surgery, they're less likely to reoccur.

Until your wife sees a health care provider, taking warm baths and/or using warm compresses may help alleviate her discomfort. If your wife is a Columbia student, she can speak with a health care provider at Medical Services. Appointments may be made online through Open Communicator or by calling x4-2284. Only advice from a health care provider can help her say sayonara to those cysts, once and for all.


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