Infection of one or both Bartholin’s glands, located in the vulva, and/or of their ducts

  • More common after puberty
  • Poor hygiene and unprotected sex with multiple partners are risk factors
  • Genetics is not a significant factor

Bartholin’s glands are two pea-sized glands with ducts that open into the vulva. The glands produce a fluid that lubricates the genital area during sexual intercourse. In bartholinitis, one or both of the glands and/or their ducts become infected. In some cases, the disorder is caused by bacteria from faeces entering the glands as a result of poor hygiene. A sexually transmitted infection may also cause the condition. The condition causes swelling in the surrounding tissues and a painful abscess may develop. One or both ducts may also become blocked, causing a painless swelling called a Bartholin’s cyst.

Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat bartholinitis, and the disorder should clear up within a few days. Painkillers may help to relieve discomfort. An abscess may be drained under local anaesthesia. Bartholin’s cysts are not usually removed unless they are very large or cause discomfort. Bartholinitis may recur.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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