A cyst is a closed pocket or pouch of tissue. It can be filled with air, fluid, pus, or other material. A vaginal cyst occurs on or under the vaginal lining.
Inclusion cyst; Gartner's duct cyst
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. They are usually composed of cysts.
Vaginal cysts usually do not cause symptoms. In some cases, a soft lump can be 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.
Exams and Tests
A mass or bulge of the vaginal wall may be seen during a pelvic exam. You may need a biopsy 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 needed to see if the cyst extends into these organs.
Routine exams to check the size of the cyst and look for any changes may be the only treatment needed.
Opening and draining the cyst does not often work well, and may lead to infection.
Surgery may be needed if the cyst is causing symptoms. This surgery can be complex and is not recommended unless you have severe symptoms.
Most of the time, the outcome is good. Often, cysts remain small and do not need treatment. When surgically removed, the cysts usually do not return.
There are usually no complications from the cysts themselves. A surgical removal carries a small risk of complication. The risk depends on where the cyst is located.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if a lump is felt inside the vagina or is protruding from the vagina.
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, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.