Caring for a Bartholin Cyst
Caring for a Bartholin gland that has developed a cyst does not need to be an arduous or painful process. Learning to recognize your early indicators is important and will aid you more than anything else on your road to recovery. It is important to understand that in some instances, cysts can form with little to no warning, for example while you sleep and are difficult to avoid. Once you learn to recognize potential indicators, you will be able to take preventative and recuperative measures. Below is a list of common indications experienced by other individuals prior to developing a Bartholin Cyst:
- Vulvar discomfort/swelling/redness
- Labia discomfort/swelling/redness
- Vaginal dryness that lasts for 2 days or more
- Infrequent burning, tingeing, twitching or in some cases a feeling similar to a light "electrical" shock half an inch down from the urethra at either the 8 or 4 o'clock positions (corresponding with the gland opening)
- Discolored vaginal discharge (this can happen for other reasons and is not always indicative of a cyst or problem with the Bartholin gland)
- Small (pea to pinto bean size) lump appx. 1/2 in below skin surface that is not painful just annoying (Early stage of cyst)
When you know that you are developing a cyst, immediately begin taking preventative measures to halt its progression. There are a plethora of over the counter (OTC) products that will help. The most important thing you could possibly do is to drink lots of water, which helps the body flush things out. If you are a smoker, for your own sake you should quit, however at the very least you should cut your consumption as far down as possible as smoking elevates blood pressure which will in turn exasperate your condition. Avoid lots of dairy products. Sitz baths are your very best friend at this point and should be done between 4-5 times daily for 10-15 minutes each time. Submerging the pelvic floor, using generously warm water supplemented with either Epson salt or Sea salt (at the very least) will help to break up the blockage that your gland has developed. As mentioned before, there are products which you should keep in your arsenal to help expedite healing, particularly herbs (in loose leaf form). Below is a list of these products followed by a sitz bath recipe that seems to work very well:
- Cranberry Juice (for drinking) half it with water to help you amp up your water consumption and lower bacteria levels in your urine.
- Epsom Salt--please know that this agent works as a mild laxative, even in a sitz bath so please do not overdo it ( but is works great) appx. 1 tbl per 5 gallons
- Sea Salt--Had healing, antiseptic properties as can be used with great results in lieu of Epsom salt (please do not use table, iodized salt).
- Chamomile leaves and flowers in dried loose form (available at any herb shop or tea shop) anti-infection, anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory.
- Comfrey leaf contain allantoin which when applies to the skin encourages and accelerates healing
- Calendula when applies to the skin can reduce pain
- Marshmallow root helps control bacterial infections and inflammation and increases immunity at a cellular level;
- Yarrow is an astringent, antispasmodic, inflammatory among many, many other things and should not be used more than 2 times a week as it can make individuals more sensitive to sunlight (although in very high does when consumed orally)
- Perineal wash bottle to use after urination to cleanse irritated tissue and avoid too much abrasion while wiping (although baby wipes that are fragrance free, chlorine free, cotton work well too).
- Heating a Cooling pads. Cooling pads should never be very cold since cold tends to cause the tissue to contract which is the opposite of what you want, but nonetheless the cold sure reduces pain (5 min every few hours BUT NO MORE!!!). As for heating, you are going to want to apply some heat to help break the blockage up (15 min every few hours) Microwaveable heating pads work really well for this, because they are dual action (into the microwave for warm, into the freezer for cold without allowing it to get too cold)
- A Chair cushion that suspends the pelvic floor without causing tension on the surrounding tissue. (DO NOT USE A DONUT--they pull the skin tight and that is bad!) Look for the IC-Network's cushion called the "Bladder and Prostate friendly chair cushion", it works very well to suspend while preventing the traditional stretching and pulling of surrounding skin and are relatively cheap.
Keeping a diary of Bartholin flares is very important. Tracking your symptoms, severity and duration will help you understand more about your body and this painful condition. Even if you only have one to two incidents a year it is still important to track those periods. Bear in mind that things like pain intensity, duration ect. are only part of what you need to monitor and track. Stress and emotional upset may play a role in the development of a cyst. Stress weakens your body and stages the scene for potential hormonal fluctuation which may lend a hand in the development of a Bartholin Cyst. Additionally, menstruation it has been suggested could lend a hand (providing hormonal imbalance) in the same way. Things you eat too are important to track. Dairy products increase mucous production in your body and could possibly be a player in this condition.
Recipe for a Bartholin Sitz Bath:
Depending on how you administer your sitz bath, the ratio is relatively the same. If you do not have a bathtub and only a shower stall, rest assured you can do this. For those of you who do not have a bathtub you will need a five gallon bucket (food grade is better or brand new at least), a large towel and an extend able shower nozzle (available at any hard-wear store, it does not need to be fancy you can get an effective one for $20.00). Fill the bucket with generously warm water and use the towel to line the rim (getting the towel wet helps) so that you can sit comfortably for at least 10 minutes. For the herbs, you probably do not want to simply add them them to the water in their loose form since it may stick to you. Place the herbs in either a re-usable muslin drawstring bag, empty tea bag or cut a square of cheese clothe that is three ply thick, center herbs in it and rubber band shut. Salt should be added directly to the water, not included with the herbs.
- Epsom or Sea salt (1.8 oz per gallon) --depending on what type of bath your are doing: Full bath (30 gallons--in a laying position water level is at upper chest) add 2 cups of either salt. Half bath (15 gallons--water level is at navel) add 1 cup of salt, sitz bath or low bath (7-9 gallons--water level is at hips) add 1/2 cup of salt. For traditional Sitz bath basins add 1/4 cup of salt. For 5 gallon buckets add 1/3 cup of salt
- Herbs--Can be added in any combination (all, some or one) and can be purchased per oz in most places like at tea shops, natural food markets or herbal shops. The ratio is really dependent on you. Once you have made your selection of herbs, add equal parts of all of them and store in a tin or bag in a dry cool spot. For a full bath a muslin draw string bag (2.5in. x 3in) is about 1/3 to 1/2 half a cup of herb mixture. So for a half bath use half as much, for a low bath add 3 tablespoons for a sitz basin add 2 tablespoon and for 5 gallon bucket add 2.5 tablespoons.
- Remain in bath for 10-15 minutes and repeat 4-5 times a day for three days.
- Water temperature should be between 98 and 105 degree Fahrenheit.
- Use your hands to swirl the water and create a current that will aid in ensuring that the beneficial additives of your bath come into contact with the affected area.