STD That Causes Cysts: What Is the Bartholin Cyst?

Sexually transmitted diseases are a concern for every sexually active person. If you’ve ever noticed a lump near your genitals and felt overwhelmed with questions about STDs, you’re not alone.

The truth is that many STDs manifest in different ways and can have symptoms similar to other STDS—or no symptoms at all. While you may be tempted to “wait and see” if that bump goes away by itself, knowing your STD status with an STD test is the best way to know exactly what you’re dealing with.

Not every lump means you have an STD. Bartholin cysts are small bumps on either side of the vagina that occur when the glands near the labia become blocked. At Rapid STD Testing, we have the answers to your questions: what are these cysts, what do they mean, and what treatment is available?

What Is a Bartholin Cyst?

A woman’s Bartholin glands flank her vagina and supply natural lubrication. When either of these glands becomes obstructed, the fluid buildup creates a Bartholin cyst. These small and usually painless cysts may cause your vagina to look lopsided, with one side larger than the other.

Not every bump in the vaginal area is a Bartholin cyst. Fordyce spots are harmless bumps resembling warts, sores, or cysts caused by STDs or vaginal infections.

Is a Bartholin cyst an STD? No, a cyst is not an STD or any other type of disease. A cyst signals one or more underlying conditions. However, certain STDs can cause these cysts, so if you notice any abnormal bumps or discomfort, consult with your physician and schedule a 10-panel STD test to determine if the bumps you see are harmless cysts or indicators of an underlying condition.


A small Bartholin cyst may form and burst without noticeable symptoms. Most Bartholin cysts range in diameter between the size of a nickel and a golf ball. With larger cysts, these symptoms become apparent:

  • Noticeable bumps: These may appear on one or both sides of the vagina.
  • Tenderness: Discomfort when walking or sitting is a common symptom for many women with Bartholin cysts.
  • Vaginal discomfort: Pain during tampon insertion or sexual contact may signal a cyst.
  • Fluid discharge: A Bartholin cyst can leak small amounts of fluid (which may have an unpleasant odor) without bursting.

Risk Factors

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Bartholin cysts account for 2% of all gynecologist appointments each year. Sexually active women in their 20s have the highest risk for these cysts. The risk decreases after a woman’s second pregnancy. This risk further diminishes as women move into their 30s and practically vanishes after menopause.

Although most Bartholin cysts are harmless and go away on their own, an infected cyst can cause a bacteria-filled abscess that requires treatment from a doctor.

Skin contact with an uninfected cyst does not spread the condition to another person. However, if an underlying STD caused the cyst, then sexual transmission of that STD could spread to a sex partner.

What Are the Causes of Bartholin Cysts?

If you notice bumps near your vagina, your first thought might be, “is there an STD that causes cysts?” The answer is yes, but not all Bartholin cysts happen because of an STD. Let’s break down the causes of these cysts into two categories: STD causes and non-STD causes. 

STD Causes

Research has identified chlamydia and gonorrhea as two causes of Bartholin cysts.


Chlamydia is the fourth most common STD in the United States. Between 2015 and 2020, the CDC tallied roughly one million chlamydia cases among women each year. 

Contact with infected semen or vaginal fluid is enough to spread an infection. Unwashed sex toys are another avenue of transmission. Once infected, a woman may not experience symptoms for three or more weeks. Warning signs of chlamydia include painful urination, fever, and Bartholin cysts.

Left untreated, chlamydia can lead to lead to infertility. The good news is that a doctor can easily diagnose chlamydia with a rapid STD test, which includes blood tests, and treat this infection with antibiotics.


Gonorrhea is another STD that causes cysts. In 2020, the CDC recorded 290,943 cases of gonorrhea among American women. These case counts represent a 50% rise over five years.

Gonorrhea in women can cause Bartholin cysts and lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility, but most women with gonorrhea feel no symptoms. The few women who experience symptoms report a burning sensation during urination and bleeding between periods.

With same-day std testing available nationwide at Rapid STD Testing centers, you don’t have to “wait and see” or take a chance. Take charge of your sexual health and get the treatment you need.

Non-STD Causes

STDs aren’t the only cause of these cysts. A pelvic injury can cause a Bartholin cyst by damaging the Bartholin gland and creating a blockage. Another common cause is a bacterial infection, like E. coli or strep. 

Pathogenic E. coli bacteria are common on unwashed fruit, undercooked meat, and surfaces where people make direct contact. Among the triggers for Bartholin cysts, E. coli exposure is the easiest to avoid. Wash your hands, take care with your food preparation, and practice good hygiene.

Since 2005, a growing body of research has supported Streptococcus Pneumoniae bacteria as another trigger for Bartholin cysts. If you develop a fever or chills in addition to a bump near your vulva, visit your doctor as soon as possible.

Symptoms, Treatment, and Management Options

If you notice a small cyst or bump near your labia, the first step is to get an STD test. If your test shows chlamydia or gonorrhea, your doctor will provide treatment options. But how can you treat the cyst itself? Several treatment options exist for a Bartholin cyst from STDs and other causes.

Home Treatment

While a Bartholin cyst may resemble a large pimple, doctors caution against squeezing or lancing it yourself. Attempting treatment yourself can cause infection or worsen an existing condition.

For non-painful cysts, home treatment with a Sitz bath works well. Fill your tub with four inches of warm water, and then relax in the tub for several minutes. Do not add any bubble bath or bath oils to the water.

Keep the water temperature comfortably warm, not scalding. The warmth will encourage the cyst to pop safely. You can repeat this treatment up to three times a day. After each session, gently pat the area with a soft towel, or use your hair dryer on a low-heat setting.

If the discomfort from a Bartholin cyst remains moderate, you can use over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen.

Prescription Medications

When a Bartholin cyst causes persistent pain or extends beyond three weeks, it’s time to consult a healthcare provider. Prescription antibiotics are highly effective for pain relief and inflammation reduction. Frequently prescribed antibiotics include amoxicillin, doxycycline, and ciprofloxacin.

Antibiotic courses typically run seven days, and most of these oral medications have few side effects.

In some cases, your physician may also give you prescription-strength versions of over-the-counter pain relievers. When oral meds and home treatment fall short, incisions or surgical options become the next step.


With a painful cyst or Bartholin abscess, your physician may drain the fluid from the afflicted area. A small incision allows the fluid to drain safely. In many cases, a doctor will insert a small flexible tube (called a Word catheter) into the incision to allow drainage to continue for four to six weeks. Your physician will remove the tube at a follow-up appointment. Word catheters contain latex, so women who are allergic to latex should avoid this procedure.

Laser Surgery

Though expensive, carbon dioxide laser treatment offers a quick and safe recovery from Bartholin cysts. In a single session, the CO2 laser can lance the cyst and vaporize the abscess. This outpatient procedure uses local anesthesia and takes less than ten minutes.

In rare cases where cysts reoccur, a second laser treatment usually resolves the issue.


When cysts reoccur after other treatments, a surgical procedure called marsupialization may bring relief. Marsupialization happens in a hospital operating room, but patients rarely need an overnight hospital stay.

The procedure begins with draining the cyst. With the fluid removed, the surgeon examines the cyst for signs of cancer. If any area resembles a cancerous growth, the surgeon removes a tissue sample for lab tests.

Next, the surgeon places stitches along the cyst wall. This step creates a permanent pouch to encourage continuous draining to prevent the cyst from coming back. Recovery takes two to four weeks, with rest and Sitz baths as part of the protocol.

Surgical Removal

If all other therapies fail, a physician may surgically remove the affected Bartholin gland. This last-resort option reduces a woman’s natural vaginal lubrication. Like any surgery, the procedure carries a risk of post-operative infection.

Surgeons recommend patients abstain from vaginal sex until the sutures fully heal over the course of two weeks.

Keep Calm, Know Your STD Status, and Carry On

Every STD that causes cysts deserves attention. Bartholin cysts are treatable and become less likely with age and multiple pregnancies. Practicing safe sex, like using condoms, and basic hygiene helps lower the risk.

If a cyst or pain during sex and STDs concerns you, visit one of our 2,500 Rapid STD Testing centers nationwide.