Most Bartholin's cysts do not cause any symptoms. However, you may feel a soft, painless lump in your labia (the two pairs of lips that surround the entrance to your vagina).
You may not know that you have a cyst until it is found during a routine cervical screening test or another gynaecological examination. A gynaecologist is a specialist in treating conditions of the female reproductive system.
If the cyst grows very large, it can become uncomfortable and noticeable. You may feel pain in your vulva (external sexual organs) when you walk, sit down or have sex.
Sometimes, the cyst can affect the outer pair of lips around the opening of the vagina (labia majora). One side may look swollen or bigger than usual.
If the cyst or gland becomes infected, it can cause an abscess. This is a painful collection of pus which often gets bigger over a few hours or days.
The cyst will become swollen, tender to touch and the skin around the abscess is likely to be red and hot. An abscess can also cause a high temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above.
When to see your GP
See your GP as soon as possible if the cyst does not improve after a few days of self-care treatment. If the cyst becomes large or painful, or if there are any other symptoms such as fever or vomiting, see your GP immediately.
If it is painful and causes discomfort when you walk or sit, it is likely that it has developed into an abscess and you will need treatment to drain the fluid.
Read more about treatment for a Bartholin's cyst.
Also visit your GP or a sexual health clinic (GUM clinic) as soon as possible if you have symptoms such as vaginal discharge, itching or pain. You may have a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
If you have an STI, the sooner you receive treatment, the better.
Bartholin's cyst cancer
If you notice any swelling in your vagina or any changes such as pain or itching, see your GP as they may need to do further tests.
In very rare cases, a Bartholin's cyst could develop into Bartholin's cyst cancer. It is also important for your GP to rule out vulval cancer.
Read more about how a Bartholin's cyst is diagnosed.