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Vaginal cysts

Definition

A vaginal cyst is a closed sac on or under the vaginal lining that contains fluid or semisolid material.

Alternative Names

Inclusion cyst; Gartner's duct cyst

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

There are several types of vaginal cysts, which can range in size from the size of a pea to that of an orange. Vaginal inclusion cysts are the most common. These may form as a result of trauma sustained by the vaginal walls or following an obstetric or gynecologic procedure, when the lining of the vagina doesn't heal to its normal smoothness.

Gartner's duct cysts develop in the space occupied by the Gartner's duct, usually on the side walls of the vagina. This duct is active during fetal development but ordinarily disappears after birth. In some cases, however, portions of the duct may collect fluid and develop into a vaginal wall cyst later in life.

Benign tumors of the vagina are uncommon and are usually made up of cysts.

Symptoms

Vaginal cysts usually do not cause symptoms, although there may be a soft lump felt in the vaginal wall or protruding from the vagina. Some women with vaginal cysts may have discomfort during sexual intercourse or difficulty inserting tampons.

Signs and tests

Upon pelvic examination, a mass or bulge of the vaginal wall may be seen or felt by the examiner. A biopsy may be necessary 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 required to be sure the cyst does not involve these structures.

Treatment

The only treatment needed may simply involved routine exams and watching the cysts for growth and other changes.

Surgical excision (removal) may be chosen or possibly required if the cyst is causing symptoms. However, this can sometimes be a very involved surgery and is not recommended unless you are having significant symptoms.

Expectations (prognosis)

The outcome is generally good. Frequently cysts remain small and require no treatment. When surgically removed, the cysts usually do not return.

Complications

There are usually no complications from the cysts themselves. A surgical excision procedure carries a small risk of complications depending on where the cyst is located in relation to other structures.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if a lump is felt inside the vagina or protruding from the vagina.

References

Katz VL. Benign gynecologic lesions: vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, oviduct, ovary. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 18


Review Date: 11/1/2009
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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