In my post “Bartholin’s Cysts – The Rarely Discussed Nightmare“, I talk about my experience with one of the most uncomfortable vaginal problems, along with some of the self help remedies I, and others have tried.
There seems to be a huge lack of knowledge about these cysts which, when they abscess cause great pain and require immediate surgery to deal with them – unless you are brave enough to try to burst and drain them yourself at home.
Let’s just remind ourselves of what we are dealing with here.
The Bartholin’s Glands
Here’s what the NHS says:
The Bartholin’s glands are a pair of pea-sized glands found just behind and either side of the lips that surround the entrance to the vagina. The glands are not usually noticeable because they’re rarely larger than 1cm (0.4 inches) across. The Bartholin’s glands secrete fluid that acts as a lubricant during sex. The Bartholin’s Glands. (Source).
Sometimes the openings of these glands become obstructed, causing fluid to back up into the gland. The result is relatively painless swelling called a Bartholin’s cyst. If the fluid within the cyst becomes infected, you may develop a collection of pus surrounded by inflamed tissue (abscess).
When these glands become blocked – and nobody seems to know quite why this happens – fluid backs up into the gland creating a painless swelling called a Bartholin’s cyst.
In my experience you can have a cyst for years without it interfering in your life particularly (including your sex life) or any pain or discomfort.
BUT if the cyst grows and becomes painful, in all likelihood it has become an abscess (or is infected)and will need medical treatment – antibiotics in the first instance and if it continues either marsupialisation or the insertion of a word catheter to help it drain.
I had a marsupialisation of a large Bartholin’s abscess about 10 years ago.
For those suffering persistent Bartholin’s cysts / abscesses, the last step is removal of the actual Bartholin’s Glands themselves.
What do you do if you have a cyst?
The problem for sufferers is knowing how their cyst is going to behave and whether it will develop into an abscess.
My GP prescribes antibiotics at the first twinge which seem to have prevented, if not swollen glands, then certainly another abscess.
Constantly taking antibiotics is not ideal so many sufferers try home remedies such as Phoebe’s Cure and a combination of sitz baths and various supplements.
I thought it would be useful to list some of the treatments that are used in case you would like to try them for yourself.
These are, of course, no substitute for seeking qualified medical advice but if you can head one of these evil things off at the pass, so to speak, that can only be a good thing.
Note, however, that if you have a temperature, are in pain or feel in any way unwell then you must seek medical advice. I should also point out that these home remedies are undertaken at your own risk.
Home remedies for Bartholin’s Cysts and Abscesses
Before trying these, you need to decide whether, in the case of a small cyst that is not otherwise bothering you, it is better to leave it alone. The vulval and vaginal skin is very delicate and applying things such as Tea Tree Oil may cause you some discomfort. Proceed with caution.
- 1 oz calamine lotion
- 1 tsp tea tree oil
- 1 tsp witch hazel
Put all these on a cotton pad or gauze and apply for one hour (or longer). Other sufferers have had better results by increasing the ingredients to, for example, 6 oz of calamine and 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil and witch hazel. You may need to play around with the ‘recipe’ to find what works best for you.
You can buy sitz baths from Amazon – a plastic bowl which fits over your toilet and allows you to ‘sit’ in it to bathe your nether regions in warm water. Otherwise just fill your bath tub with water up to your hips. Try adding Epsom Salts or some sea salt if you don’t have anything else to hand. Soak for around 20 minutes 3-4 times a day – depending on how painful your cyst or abscess is.
Hot water bottle
You could try getting the cyst to ‘pop’ by sitting on a hot water bottle but make sure it is wrapped in a muslin cloth or tea towel to avoid burning yourself.
Alternatively, you could use a washcloth dipped in hot water and carefully wrung out. Apply the compress for 10 minutes and repeat 4 times each day.
Tea Tree Oil or Witch Hazel
Add a couple of drops to a cotton pad and apply. Check first whether you need to dilute it.
This is a homoeopathic drawing salve that claims to ‘draw out’ the pus and infection. Its main ingredients are: carbolic acid, arnica, calendula, echinacea and sulphur in an ointment of beeswax, petrolatum and parabens. Apply direct or on a gauze pad.
A much cheaper alternative would be Magnesium Sulphate Paste, a topical treatment for skin infections such as boils and carbuncles (so roughly similar). Prid is a US product which you may not be able to get hold of so easily in the UK.
Silica is a trace mineral which is only required by the body in small amounts. It is said to support joint structures, hair, skin and nail health whilst its efficacy for Bartholin’s Cysts seems to be anecdotal.
Silicea 10 homoeopathic remedy
There seems to be some confusion between silica and silicea 10, a homoeopathic remedy for cysts. I have tried the latter on numerous occasions. These are little sugar pills you place beneath your tongue until they dissolve.
Serrapeptase is an enzyme which acts as an anti-inflammatory and an analgesic. It is said to boost antibiotic activity and tackle bacterial resistance. There are huge claims made for Serrapeptase but again, its reputation seems to be based on hearsay. I have taken this supplement on many occasions but am not sure whether it made much difference. You are advised to take these on an empty stomach so watch the dose as the stronger ones can upset your stomach a little.
Caster Oil may help cysts in the same way as apple cider vinegar or tea tree. Research shows that this oil is antimicrobial making it effective at killing bacteria that live in the skin (causing, for example, cysts and acne). Apply directly to the cyst on a gauze or cotton pad.
The stuff we were slathered in as kids to treat chickenpox – it helps to dry out oozing skin irritations and is one of the key ingredients in Phoebe’s Cure (see above).
Aloe Vera has confirmed anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and both may help with pain and irritation in cysts. It may also help reduce the appearance or get rid of certain cysts caused by bacteria or other pathogens. You can find an aloe vera gel in your local pharmacy or online.
Those unfortunate enough to suffer these blighters repeatedly may use one or several of these remedies whilst waiting to get to their doctor. It is a matter of trial and error.
When the abscess ‘pops’
Sufferers report that when their abscesses burst there will be quite a lot of unpleasant liquid which seeps from the cyst. You may need to wear a sanitary pad. The site of the cyst and the surrounding skin may be tender so you should make sure you gently wash it and then call your GP for a check up.
Have you suffered from a Bartholin’s Cyst or abscess? What has worked for you?