Bartholin's glands

Labelled diagram of the vulva, vagina, and structures associated with them

Bartholin's glands are a pair of oval, pea-sized glands whose ducts open into the vulva (the folds of flesh that surround the opening of the vagina). During sexual arousal these glands secrete a fluid that helps to lubricate the vulval region. Bartholin's glands are named after Caspar Bartholin (1655–1738), who first described them,


Disorders of Bartholin's glands

Infection of Bartholin's glands causes bartholinitis, in which an intensely painful red swelling forms at the opening of the ducts. Treatment is with antibiotics, analgesics, and warm baths.


If infection produces an abscess, the affected gland is cut open and drained, usually under general anesthesia. Should abscesses recur, an operation may be performed, either to convert the duct into an open pouch, or to remove the gland completely.


If an infection narrows the duct by scarring, the gland may not be capable of emptying, and a Bartholin's cyst, a painless swelling of the duct may form. The cyst may become repeatedly infected, in which case masupialization or removal of the gland is needed. Even if both Bartholin's glands are removed or destroyed, other glands in the vagina are capable of secreting adequate amounts of lubricants.