A cyst is a closed pocket or pouch of tissue. It can be filled with air, fluid, pus, or other material. A vaginal cyst is a closed sac on or under the vaginal lining.
Inclusion cyst; Gartner's duct cyst
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
There are several types of vaginal cysts.
- Vaginal inclusion cysts are the most common. These may form as a result of injury to the vaginal walls during birth process or after surgery.
- Gartner's duct cysts develop on the side walls of the vagina. This duct is present while a baby is developing in the womb but will most often disappear after birth. If parts of the duct remain, they may collect fluid and develop into a vaginal wall cyst later in life.
- Bartholin's cyst or abscess is the buildup of fluid for pus that forms a lump in one of the glands found on each side of the vaginal opening.
- Pieces of endometriosis may appear as small cysts in the vagina.
- Benign tumors of the vagina are uncommon and are usually made up of cysts.
Vaginal cysts usually do not cause symptoms, although there may be a soft lump felt in the vaginal wall or protruding from the vagina. Cysts range in size from the size of a pea to that of an orange.
Some women with vaginal cysts may have discomfort during sex or trouble inserting a tampon.
Signs and tests
Upon pelvic examination, a mass or bulge of the vaginal wall may be seen or felt by the examiner. A biopsy may be necessary to rule out vaginal cancer, especially if the mass appears to be solid.
If the cyst is located under the bladder or urethra, X-rays may be required to be sure the cyst does not involve these structures.
The only treatment needed may simply involve routine exams and watching the cyst for growth and other changes.
Opening and draining the cyst does not usually work well and may lead to infection.
Surgery may be needed if the cyst is causing symptoms. However, this can sometimes be a very involved surgery and is not recommended unless you are having more severe symptoms.
The outcome is generally good. Frequently cysts remain small and require no treatment. When surgically removed, the cysts usually do not return.
There are usually no complications from the cysts themselves. A surgical excision procedure carries a small risk of complications depending on where the cyst is located in relation to other structures.
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if a lump is felt inside the vagina or protruding from the vagina.
Katz VL. Benign gynecologic lesions: vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, oviduct, ovary. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 18
Review Date: 11/7/2011
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.