Chronic Bartholin Abscess and Cysts - My Experience

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After roughly 5 years of experience with these beasts I opted to have my gland removed. I feel as though I've been through hell and back and almost feel a sense of obligation to share my story to those who may be going through the same thing. I know I wanted to know everything about them, so the least I can do is contribute my knowledge of the topic.

*I am NOT a medical professional and I am not dishing out medical advice, just sharing an experience*

I got my first abscess towards the end of my senior year of college. I'm now 27. I had the abscess drained by OB and it did not reappear until several years later. And guess when it decided to return? My honeymoon. My honeymoon was completely ruined. We were in the Dominican Republic and I noticed it starting to swell up the morning after we arrived. By that afternoon I was already starting to feel sluggish and almost like I had the flu. By the third day I was in bed with a 102 degree fever. I was too embarrassed and nervous to see an actual doctor in the Dominican so we went to the resort clinic and I faked a sinus infection knowing they would give me antibiotics. The antibiotics did not help (cephalexin) and I still had several days until I could get a flight back to the states. I writhed in pain for days, I didn't sleep for 3 days straight. I made a half-assed attempt at popping it WITH A NEEDLE. That is what desperation will do to you! The pain was so bad I had to stop and LAY DOWN IN THE AIRPORT when we were trying to get home. Do you know how disgusting and humiliating it is to lay down on the ground in an airport? I refused to get help until we got home. There is just something about getting cut open by someone you don't know in an unfamiliar place that is just unsettling...I cried for the entire day during the course of our 2 flights home. My husband rushed me to the ER as soon as we landed. The doctor lanced the abscess and gave me a word catheter. I felt amazing afterwards. It hurt to sit, but I could work from home and within a week I was back to normal. Story should end there with a happy ending, right?

Wrong.

Fast forward to a few months later and it's back. I tried the sitz baths, but it did not change. When it got big enough and I started to feel that awful flu-ish feeling, I saw my OB GYN who once again lanced it and inserted a catheter. Went home, did my sitz baths, back to normal in a week...

Fast foward another two months and I feel another one coming on. Once again, I got the catheter. Except this time my OB stated she made a larger incision than before. It hurt extremely bad this time. I cried at the pharmacy waiting for my pain meds and cephalexin. I almost couldn't make the drive home. That night, I got chills and noticed I was bleeding way more than normal. I also developed another high fever. By that time I was a veteran with the word catheter so I knew something was wrong. Me and my husband called local hospitals trying to figure out how to classify "too much blood loss". I toughed it out and tried to sleep through the night. I was sure it was infected and that it was bleeding too much. 3 days of bleeding with chills and fever, puss burst through the catheter, almost as if it had re-burst again after it was lanced. It was a horrible, horrible experience.

Later that winter it came back once again...like clockwork, I swear. This time I had a marsupilaization. The procedure seemed almost TOO good to be true. I felt way better afterwards than when I had the catheters. We even went out to eat that night! This blissful feeling lasted for 3 whole months! I know it seems odd, but when my husband and I were intimate after the incision healed and the stitches dissolved, it was better than it was before this whole mess started!

Too good to be true, you say? You are correct.

Here we are...summertime, a little over a year after my honeymoon disaster. On a holiday weekend I felt it coming back. I went and saw my OB and she said she would lance and insert a catheter. At that point, I finally took control of what I thought should be done and declined the catheter. I requested a lancing instead because at that point - I already know it will come back, so why go through the extra pain of the catheter? She lances it, it got infected (despite the antibiotics) and re-burst again a few days later. Same fever, same pain, no sleeping, etc. I cried once again, but this time not just because it hurt, but because I felt broken. I felt like it had officially taken over my life.

Before I left my OB's office the day I got it lanced again, we talked about a more permanent solution. I mentioned removing the gland entirely (because like you people, I troll the internet looking for all possible solutions to this thing) and she shrugged her shoulders and gave me an uneasy look suggesting that removing the gland was not something she would advise. 

The fact that she wouldn't even hear it out made me feel a bit less comfortable with her even though she had been my OB for 14 years! I once again took to google and searched for the BEST gynecological surgeon in my area. I settled on one and set an appointment for a second opinion. My visit with her was borderline inspiring. She was so confident, she expained that I was considered an ideal candidate for the surgery and even went so far as to draw pictures of the actual procedure for me. It sounds weird, I know, but it helped. She sent me on my way and said to call back when I was ready. I called back two months later when I just barely felt another abscess coming on and she put me on the surgery calendar. I met with her the night before and even sat down with the anesthesiologist to get a very clear picture of how everything the next day would run. The surgery went great. I'm 3 weeks post-op and feeling really well. There is still a little pain, but definitely no bleeding. I'm used to healing really quickly so I keep expecting it to not hurt at all, but that is just unrealistic considering a gland was removed from my body. 

I'm not going to tell anyone on here to go out and do the surgery. It is up to you.

Below is what did not work for me. 

Sitz baths

Tea tree oil

Epsom salts

Silicia

Serrapeptase

Probiotics (these are good for you anyway)

Drawing salves

Massaging the area

Steam/warm compresses

Ice packs

Antibiotics

Calamine lotion

The Bartholin Cyst Miracle e-book

Here is a little procedure cheat-sheet for those who may be unfamiliar:

Lancing - the area is numbed with a topical anesthetic, again with local anesthetic and a small incision is made into the abscess/cyst to allow the built up puss to drain. **soooo gross**

Word Catheter - incision is made similiar to the above, except a small tube with a balloon on the end is inserted into the hole. This allows the hole to remain open and encourages the cyst to continue to drain. My first doctor said the catheter should stay in place for a few days. The internet told me 4 weeks. My second doctor that performed my excision also said it should have stayed in for at least a few weeks.

Marsupilization - incision is made per the above and instead stitched open to allow the hole to remain open. From what I've heard, this has been a permanent solution for some! Not for me, but I definitely preferred it over the catheter.

Gland Excision - exactly that. The entire gland is removed. Recovery time is around 6 weeks, pain is mild, I was also warned that disfigurement is a possibility, but that was not the case for me. Yes, I've looked at it. 

It may be too early to tell if my surgery has a good prognosis, however, my doctor did say she was able to remove almost all of the gland. It is important to know that the gland is so small and the area is so vascular, that it can sometimes be difficult for the surgeon to remove the entire mechanism. Understanding how much was removed will help you better figure out your chance for reccurrence. 

Well friends, I wish everyone on here the best of luck with this awful condition. It blows my mind that this disorder doesn't get a whole lot of attention considering how life altering it really can be. I leave you with just a few of my mantras for battling this crap: you are not alone, you are not broken, and you are not crazy. Do your research, don't be afraid to get second opinions and do what you feel is best for your body and your well being. 

 

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  • Posted

    Megan your story is identical to mine. I have been suffering for 8 years now, and after multiple trips to the ER, having to go through the excruciating lancing and catheter insertions that always fall out, then a marsupialization, only to have the damn thing still come back every few months, has taken a physical, mental and emotional toll.

    I'm Canadian. Our healthcare system has it's pros and cons. But I have really lost confidence in the abilities of any of the doctors I have seen since each has handed my situation off to the next. I have not received a clear answer on removal of the entire gland. I've read horror stories as well as 1 or 2 successful accounts of those who have gotten it done. There seems to be very little understanding of this condition where it pertains to multiple reoccurrences. My doctor told me to go back to the ER when I feel another one come on and whoever is on call will perform the excision. Two days ago I went into emergency, waited 8 hours, gave them my story (again) only to be told they were going to lance it once again and there was no possibility of getting the surgery. I refused. So now, two days later I am in excruciating pain, waiting for my doctor's clinic to open tomorrow, to go back to the clinic where I was originally told nothing could be done. Am I caught in a loophole? The sitzing, the lancing, everything seems to be a bandaid solution to a bigger problem. I have been told that the only time the surgery can be done is during an episode. My doctor is NEVER THERE when it happens or I am travelling (which is usually the case). I am frustrated and in so much pain. I can't find a doctor who cares to help me. I am willing to pay if necessary, to find someone abroad if that is what I need to do. If anyone has a good lead I am all ears!

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    • Posted

      Have you tried acupuncture?! I also had a Bartolins Cyst and after several years and trying what felt like everything , I asked my friend who is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. She specializes in fertility and women's health. She said she could treat me right away, she placed tiny needles on my legs arms and feet, and didn't even have to see the cyst or needle anywhere near it. After the first session it was noticeably smaller! And completely gone after 3. I've been living cyst free for a year now!

      I hope this information may help, It might be nice to know there are options that do not require surgery.

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    • Posted

      Hey Adawn may I have phone number for the traditional Chinese medicine  Doctor. I am in excruciating pain and I need to get rid of the bartolin cyst. I can't walk for to long . I'm uncomfortable when I sit. Feels like I'm being rob of my life. Please send the number. 
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    • Posted

      Hi, I have been suffering from BC 11 years. Most of the times were holidays, when my doctor is not working.

      This is an infection, I don't think acupuncture will work. I had a period of 6 years with not BC and now they come back again, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New year, BD, Memorial day....

      No one offered me the exsicion of the gland unail 2013, I denied, and they offer me marzupalization, only the 10% of woman with marzupalization will recur. I was the one, marzupalization didnt work good, it will drain it after 3 days, but I feel like it's a balloon, get fills, drain, and start acumulating pus and blood again, I had been with this problem 2 month. I am waiting for the cyst to get big, and go to a surgery for excision of the gland. While I wait, I found out, "excision of the gland" is not the solution

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    • Posted

      Sorry, my message was sent, and I didn't finish writing.

      There is a procedure call "excision of the bartholini cyst" they will remove only the cyst in its capsule. You can check on youtube, there is lots of videos, it freak me out watching, but at the same ti.e I want to know, what my doctor is going to do. I am going to another doctor tomorrow, 5th opinion, I will find out who perform this procedure over here, I know a lady that had this procedure in PA. Another doctor put me on antibiotic yesterday.

      I will find a doctor that can, and want to remove the cyst, I also was told from another ginecologist, that the excision of the cyst, is made when the 3er marzupalization fail., I will consider it as another option, because my ginecologist advise me to go for another marzupalization, and not the removal of the gland.

      I'm just saying, we all think diferent, I know it sucks, and the pain is horrible... I stay positive, I hope I find so.eone soon.

      Good luck, I hope you feel better soon.

      Janet

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  • Posted

    Thank you for sharing your story. I'm 21 had 3 re occurring cysts on the left side until I finally got the marsupilization done and was cyst free for the most I ever was which was about 5 months. That is however until the cyst came back, and with revenge. Only thing is it came back on the right side. Only had one comfortable night of sleep. It got super big and gross as you might know. Except I started taking serrapeptase and goldenseal vitamins. And so the second day I was in be all day. The third day was the same except at my bf's house and I had Vicodin for the pain to help me sleep. That very night I woke up with instant relief. I thought nothin of it I just snuggled up to my bf's back and fell right back asleep. When I woke up in the morning I was still wondering why it didn't hurt as much. But let me tell you, when I got up from the bed for my morning restroom session, I felt like I peed on my self. All the puss and blood that was infecting my cyst had came out. The cyst had ruptured and I'm guessing when I stood up gravity took charge and drained the cyst. Good thing I was wearing black baggy sweats and not my cute booty shorts I normally wear at my bf's house. Anyways it was still a bit painful but I think the Vicodin was wearing off. I took another to get me body numb, sat in a warm bath with a bit of organic Un scented soap sat in there an started squeezing from the bottom up and from the inside out. Anyways my friend which is a nurse said as long as I keep it clean I wouldn't have to go to the doctor. I just had to keep draining it in the bath when I could. So with all this being said I am with you 100% on gettin the gland removed if it comes back on either side to save me from going thru all the feels. And thank you again for sharing your story! 
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  • Posted

    Meagan, I'm so angry that your ob wouldn't take you seriously! Mine won't either, and I've only had 1! Your story is encouraging me to find one who will agree to have the gland taken out. I told her I can never go through that pain again. She just put me off saying it's a bloody surgery! I'm a teacher and I could have it done in the summer. I just want to know if I do it myself will I need to stitch it up myself! I know you understand my thinking! I hope you will update me and tell me how you are doing! Bless you girl!

    Kel

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