Bartholin's abscess involves an accumulation of pus that forms a lump (swelling) in one of the mucus-producing Bartholin's glands, which are located on each side of the vaginal opening at the innermost part of the labia. This swelling is hot to the touch, sensitive, and painful.
Bartholin's abscesses form when ducts (small drainage openings) from the Bartholin's glands get blocked. Secretions in the glands build up and may become infected. Many different types of bacteria can cause the infection, including the bacteria that cause gonorrhea. However, these infected glands are usually not caused by a sexually transmitted infection.
Often the abscess can appear and become full-blown within 2 or 3 days. Any activity that puts pressure against the vulva, even walking and sitting, may cause excruciating pain.
A Bartholin's cyst is formed when a Bartholin's gland is blocked, causing a fluid-filled cyst to develop. A Bartholin's cyst is not an infection, although it can be caused by an infection, inflammation, or physical blockage (mucus or other impediment) to the Bartholin's ducts (tubes which lead from the glands to the vulva). If infection sets in, the result is a Bartholin's abscess. If the infection is severe or repeated a surgical procedure known as marsupialization may be required to stop further recurrences.
Bartholin's cysts are most common in women aged 20-29, especially those who have never been pregnant or have only been pregnant very few times.
A Bartholin's cyst can grow from the size of a pea to the size of an egg. Cysts are not sexually transmitted, though sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis or other bacterial infections can cause the cysts to become infected and become abscesses.
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