Soaking in warm water four times a day for several days usually provides some relief and causes the abscess to open and drain on its own. However, the opening is usually very small and closes quickly, before drainage is complete.
A small surgical cut can completely drain the abscess. This provides the greatest relief and the fastest recovery. The procedure can be done under local anesthesia in a doctor’s office. A catheter (tube) may be used to continue to allow draining while the area heals.
Antibiotics may be prescribed, but they are not usually needed if the abscess is drained properly.
Women who have repeated abscesses may consider a procedure called marsupialization. The procedure involves surgically creating a small, permanent opening to help the gland drain. Women with large, persistent Bartholin’s cysts may also have this procedure.
Your health care provider may recommend that the glands be removed if abscesses keep coming back.
The chance of full recovery is excellent. About 10% of the time, abscesses recur.
It is important to treat any vaginal infection that may be diagnosed at the same time as the abscess.
A chronic Bartholin’s duct cyst may develop if the fluid of the abscess is scraped off from the surrounding tissue. In women over the age of 40, a swollen Bartholin’s gland may mean there is a cancerous tumor in the gland, although this is very rare.
Calling Your Health Care Provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if a painful, swollen lump is noted on the labia near the vaginal opening and does not improve with 2 – 3 days of home treatment. Call if pain is severe and interferes with normal activity.
Call your health care provider if you develop a fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Review Date : 8/1/2008
Reviewed By : Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Maternal & Child Health Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine; Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.