Bartholin's Cysts - The Rarely Discussed Nightmare | Mother Distracted

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Monday, 11 January 2016

Bartholin's Cysts - The Rarely Discussed Nightmare

Now ladies this may well put you off your cornflakes but I think it needs talking about.

If you have ever experienced the misery of a Bartholin's Cyst which then becomes a Bartholin's abscess, you will know exactly what I am talking about.

Woman sitting - Bartholin's Cyst - motherdistracted.co.uk
The misery of Bartholin's Cysts is seldom discussed
Yes - this is one of those delightful gynaecological problems that can appear out of the blue and cause recurrent misery for years.

The Bartholins Glands are two pea sized glands located slightly posterior and to the left and right of the opening of the vagina. Their function is to secrete mucus to lubricate the vagina. This lubrication may help make sex a little more comfortable for women.

Sometimes, however, these glands can become blocked which results in the formation of a Bartholin's Cyst.  These cysts can grow in size so that it is actually painful to sit or walk.

Believe it or not, many women don't even know that these glands exist.  And many cysts are not diagnosed until an examination such as a smear is carried out by a medical professional.  You can have a Bartholin's cyst for years without it causing you too many problems.

If, however, infection occurs, the result is an incredibly painful Bartholin's cyst which may require drainage or surgery to get rid of it.

Nobody seems to be entirely sure what causes these cysts - the usual suspects are all there, stress, poor hygiene, bad diet, STIs and, rarely vulval cancer.  For this reason, if you think you may have one you MUST go to your GP to get it checked out.

The peak age for getting these delightful swines is between 20-30 and in theory, once you reach menopause the Bartholin's Glands are supposed to shrink so that you no longer suffer this problem. Great in theory but since I'm 51, rubbish in practice.

I had an abscess about 10 years ago and have a small Bartholin's cyst at present so believe me I am speaking from experience here.

Usually, the first course of action to treat a possibly infected cyst is a course of antibiotics.  In my experience this is a rather hit and miss method of treatment and, if the antibiotics cure the problem, there is no guarantee that it will not reappear.

At this stage, the home treatment advice tends to be to take over-the-counter painkillers and to take a sitz bath 3-4 times a day.

A sitz bath is a warm, shallow bath that cleanses the vulval area and can be used for everyday personal hygiene. It can also provide relief from pain or itching in the genital area. You can give yourself a sitz bath in your bathtub or with a plastic kit that fits over your toilet.

If an abscess does develop, the methods of treatment are usually drainage by the insertion of a Word catheter or, as I had done, marsupialization.

Marsupialization is the surgical technique of cutting a slit into an abscess or cyst and suturing the edges of the slit to form a continuous surface from the exterior surface to the interior surface of the cyst or abscess - in other words, creating a pouch which allows drainage.

My marsupialization was done as a day surgery appointment and the recovery time was quoted as being 2 weeks.  At least 6 weeks was closer to the mark and, what I was not told at the time, some sensitivity remains due to the scar tissue left behind.

Fear of surgery, particularly 'down below' leads many women to seek home cures and there are many sites which discuss the methods which have worked for them.

These are some suggestions but please note that their success is anecdotal and reported on various forum boards.

The homeopathic remedy Silicea 30C

Dose - 5 pellets under the tongue 2 or 3 times a day.

Information on the Wisegeek.org website tells us that:-

"Silicea is derived from flint or quartz and is an abundant mineral naturally found in the Earth's crust. Part of the structural makeup of bone and cartilage, the remedy is present in humans as a trace element. It can be found in connective tissues as well as hair, skin, and nails.

People who use this mineral believe that its cleansing effects make it particularly useful in treating dry skin, nails, or hair. This mineral is sometimes used to improve acne, blemishes, ulcers, boils, inflammation, or generally sickly skin. Infections from abscesses, skin eruptions, glass shards, and splinters may also be treated with it. Some people also use it in hopes of preventing hair loss and dandruff, and to reduce scar tissue visibility." 

I am currently trying this cure at the moment.

Weleda Silicea 30C tablets - silicea for bartholin's cyst - motherdistracted.co.uk
Weleda Silicea 30c Tablets - £7.84
Silica Complex

Now there is a great deal of confusion on the boards about whether the best cure is Silicea 30c (the homeopathic remedy) or Silica Complex.  An example of what I mean is HERE and, confusingly, HERE.

Silica Complex is a dietary supplement which usually takes its Silica from Horsetail Extract and is combined with other vitamins and minerals.

These are the kind of tablets referred to.

Holland & Barrett Silica Complex Tablets - Silica for Bartholin's Cyst - motherdistracted.co.uk
Silica Complex Tablets From Holland  & Barrett - £12.35 for 120 
These are usually taken to help improve the quality of skin, hair and nails.  This particular tablet contains calcium, magnesium and zinc as well as the Horsetail extract.

Sitz Baths With Epsom Salts

As described above but with the addition of epsom salts, also recommended for post-partum pain and haemorrhoids.  You can find a recipe HERE

Phoebe's Cure

Hands up, I don't know who Phoebe is but her 'cure' is much talked about on the health boards.  It is simply this:-

6oz calamine lotion
1 teaspoon Tea Tree oil
1 teaspon Witch Hazel

Soak a gauze pad in the solution and press against the cyst for about 30 minutes.


Dose: 2 a day on an empty tummy.

Serrapeptase is derived from the Silk Worm and is claimed to help eliminate inflammatory oedema and swelling by breaking down abnormal fluids and protein and by promoting the absorption of these decomposed products through blood and lymphatic vessels. It could also break down and liquefy mucous secretions and fibrin clots and help antibiotics to focus on infection.

There seems, however, to be insufficient clinical evidence to prove its efficacy.

Finally, you might be interested in a book you can download for Kindle entitled "Bartholin's Cyst Miracle Method" by Janet Freeland (£3.56).

Available from Amazon.co.uk for Kindle at £3.56
The book promises to help us learn how many women have cured their bartholin cysts and exactly what they did to treat them in the privacy of their own homes with no doctors or painful surgery. It promises to "reveal the exact method now used by countless women to get rid of their bartholin cysts for good".

Obviously I am not a doctor and the first course of action if you suspect that you have a Bartholin's cyst is to see your GP.

It would be remiss of me to suggest that you go off gung-ho and try these without prior discussion with your healthcare provider.

But let's live in the real world, shall we?

If the provision of gynaecological services were better in the UK and if doctors were a little more sympathetic to problems like this, then the health boards of various forums would be a lot less busy.

The number one response of GPs to any gynae problem seems to be a combination of antibiotics and Canesten.

Women know their own bodies better than any GP but this knowledge does not help them to make themselves heard when it matters most. - tweet it.

I will continue with my antibiotics and Silicea 30c.  I will try sitz baths and add a silica complex supplement to my diet.

Since I had my marsupialization I have had no further problem on that side (right), other than frequent irritation from the scar tissue.  I hope that I don't have to go through the whole process agin on the left!

Bartholin's cysts and abscesses are incredibly frustrating because there is a reluctance to treat them until the level of discomfort and / or infection is intolerable to the sufferer.

Is it any wonder that many of us, at least those of us who are brave enough to talk about it, are desperately seeking our own cure and would prefer to trust the anecdotal evidence of other woman than our overstretched NHS.

Please see your GP before trying any of the supplements listed above.

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