Vaginal cysts form on the surface area or under the membranes lining the vagina. These are enclosed pockets of pus, fluid, or even air that develop as a result of being injured giving birth, a buildup of glandular fluid, or the growth of benign tumors in the vagina.
These cysts are small and typically stay that way, so they rarely need to be removed or even treated. However, there are several different types, and some become enlarged, which can cause discomfort or even pain when inserting/removing a tampon or during sex. They can also cause itching and raise the risk of developing an infection.
Types of Vaginal Cysts
There are quite a few different types of vaginal cysts, but the most commonly occurring are vaginal inclusion cysts. Less common are Gartner’s duct vaginal cysts, and Bartholin’s vaginal cysts. Benign or non-cancerous tumors can also develop in the vagina and may even look like cysts, but they aren’t. Here are different types of cysts:
- Vaginal Inclusion Cysts: What makes these vaginal cysts so common is that they are due to the vagina wall being injured, which can happen in a surgical procedure or when giving birth.
- Gartner’s Duct Cysts: During the fetal development of girls a remnant organ can remain in the pelvis until well into adulthood. This can accumulate a buildup of fluid, which ultimately becomes a cyst on the vaginal wall.
- Bartholin’s Cyst: At the vagina opening is a set of lips called the labia and this is the location of Bartholin’s gland. Sometimes a flap of skin will grow over and cover the gland. A buildup of fluid then begins to accumulate in the gland, forming a cyst. This type of cyst usually doesn’t cause any pain, but if it gets infected an abscess can form.
What Symptoms Occur with Vaginal Cysts?
There are no obvious symptoms of vaginal cysts, although you may feel some discomfort or pain when inserting/removing a tampon and/or when having sex. Or you might feel a protrusion on the wall of your vagina. Reach out to your physician if you notice a bump forming inside your vagina, or if something is bulging out within your vagina.
Diagnosing Vaginal Cysts
When your OB/GYN is doing your regular pelvic exam, he/she may feel a lump on the wall of your vagina. In going over your medical history you will be asked about any symptoms you may be experiencing. In all likelihood he/she will schedule you for some tests in order to determine what this mass could be.
These test will likely be:
- A biopsy on a sample of tissue taken from the cyst to determine if it is cancer.
- Vaginal or cervical secretions will be tested to determine if you have a sexually transmitted infection(STI).
- Ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI to see what the cyst looks like inside and out.
What Treatments are Used for Vaginal Cysts?
Your physician will monitor your vaginal cyst to see if it is growing or changing in terms of how it looks. If your cyst becomes infected or an abscess develops, you may need to go on antibiotics. If it is getting larger or beginning to be symptomatic your doctor may decide to surgically remove it.
Can Vaginal Cysts Cause Complications?
Vaginal cysts rarely lead to complications. But they can get larger in time, which can cause more discomfort and pain. If this occurs, it raises the risk of becoming infected. As with any surgery, if you have it removed the excision site can pose complications, the main one being infection.
What is the Prognosis in the Long Term?
The prognosis long term is very good because cysts are typically benign and stay small. When a cyst is removed surgically it usually doesn’t return. Being aware and taking care of your vaginal health is important to maintaining a quality life. Talk with your OB/GYN if you have questions or concerns.