Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva

Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva

Sexual Health
Women's Health
Contributed byKrish Tangella MD, MBAJan 15, 2019

What are the other Names for this Condition? (Also known as/Synonyms)

  • Epidermal Inclusion Cysts of Vulva
  • Sebaceous Gland Cysts of Vulva
  • Vulvar Sebaceous Cysts

What is Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva? (Definition/Background Information)

  • Vulvar cysts are rare, benign, and usually fluid-filled lesions that form on the vulvar region (the area around the external vaginal opening) in adult women. A majority of these cysts are small and present no symptoms, while some may grow larger resulting in pain and discomfort
  • Sebaceous Cyst of Vulva is a type of benign vulvar cyst that forms when the sebaceous glands (oil glands) that lubricate the skin and hair get obstructed due to various reasons. It may be also known as Epidermal Inclusion Cyst of Vagina
  • The cysts may be solitary or multiple in numbers and are generally painless. No significant signs and symptoms or complications are typically noted. However, in some cases, Sebaceous Gland Cysts of Vulva may grow to larger sizes resulting in discomfort and pain
  • Typically, no treatment is necessary for the condition, unless significant signs and symptoms are observed. If necessary, conservative therapy through good personal hygiene and use of medicinal toiletries may be recommended
  • In general, the prognosis of Sebaceous Gland Cysts of Vulva is excellent with appropriate treatment

Who gets Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva? (Age and Sex Distribution)

  • Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva are mostly observed in women of a wide age range. They may be observed in young girls too
  • There is no known geographical, ethnic, or racial preference

What are the Risk Factors for Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva? (Predisposing Factors)

  • No definitive risk factors have been identified for Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva

It is important to note that having a risk factor does not mean that one will get the condition. A risk factor increases ones chances of getting a condition compared to an individual without the risk factors. Some risk factors are more important than others.

Also, not having a risk factor does not mean that an individual will not get the condition. It is always important to discuss the effect of risk factors with your healthcare provider.

What are the Causes of Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva? (Etiology)

  • Sebaceous Gland Cysts of Vulva occur due to obstruction of the oil glands or sebaceous glands causing it to dilate and get swollen
  • It is important to note that Vulvar Sebaceous Cysts are not caused by any sexually transmitted disease

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva?

A majority of the cysts are small-sized and asymptomatic, presenting no significant signs and symptoms. In some cases, the following signs and symptoms of Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva may be noted:

  • Presence of a fluid-filled cyst that appears as a tiny bump; in most cases, more than one cyst may be present
  • The cysts may be of varying sizes; most cysts are very small (about a few mm), while some may grow larger
  • Redness and tenderness; usually no pain is felt
  • Large sizes may cause discomfort and pain
  • Fluid drainage from the cyst with a foul, smelly discharge
  • Pain or discomfort while using a tampon, during sex
  • Discomfort while walking or sitting
  • Sometimes, it may also cause itching and painful urination

How is Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva Diagnosed?

A diagnosis of Sebaceous Gland Cysts of Vulva may involve the following steps:

  • Evaluation of the individual’s medical history and a thorough physical (pelvic) examination. Usually, a pelvic (visual) exam is sufficient to ensure a diagnosis of the condition
  • Tests to rule out sexually-transmitted infections (if necessary)
  • Biopsy of the mass: It is the process of removing tissue for examination. In the case of sebaceous gland cyst, a complete excision and removal of the lesion can help in the process of a biopsy, as well as be a means for treating the condition
  • Occasionally, since the cyst is fluctuant (due to accumulation of fluid), a fine needle aspiration of the cyst contents may be performed
    • Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy: A very fine and hollow needle is inserted where the cyst is noticed; the fluid contained within the cyst is withdrawn. The extracted sample is sent for further pathological examination
    • If the healthcare provider suspects an infection process, then culture studies on the cyst aspirate may be performed

Many clinical conditions may have similar signs and symptoms. Your healthcare provider may perform additional tests to rule out other clinical conditions to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.

What are the possible Complications of Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva?

No significant complications of Sebaceous Gland Cysts of Vulva are noted, because it is a benign condition. However, the following may be observed in some cases:

  • Abscess formation resulting in infections; this may result in associated signs and symptoms including fever
  • Severe pain during sex, if the cysts are infected and painful
  • The cysts may rupture and bleed resulting in secondary infections
  • Damage to the muscles, vital nerves, and blood vessels, during surgery
  • Post-surgical infection at the wound site is a potential complication
  • Recurrence of the cyst

How is Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva Treated?

Generally, no treatment is necessary for Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva, since these are benign and asymptomatic lesions. Some cysts are known to subside and spontaneously regress on their own. However, the following measures may be considered either to reduce the signs and symptoms or to treat the condition:

  • Sitz bath: Immersing oneself several times in a tub filled with warm water for a period of 3-4 days may cause the cyst to break and the fluid will drain on its own. This therapy may not be effective for all individuals. The healthcare provider will advise if the therapy is appropriate for the individual
  • Application of topical creams and gels, to bring relief from the symptoms and to provide a measure of comfort
  • Stoppage of soaps and body creams that have strong chemicals in them; use of milder alternatives
  • Some healthcare providers may advocate an increase in vitamins A and B rich foods that can help with the healing process
  • Use of clean cotton underwear; avoiding synthetic and tight-fitting clothes for a period of time
  • Maintain proper personal hygiene, especially in the genital region
  • In some cases, the cysts may get secondarily infected. If bacteria is the cause of infection, it may be treated through antibiotics
  • If the antibiotics does not clear the infection, then an abscess drainage through a surgical procedure may be performed
  • Surgical intervention with complete excision can result in a complete cure
  • Post-operative care is important: Minimum activity level is to be ensured until the surgical wound heals
  • Follow-up care with regular screening and check-ups are important

How can Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva be Prevented?

  • Current medical research has not established a method of preventing Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva
  • In case of a secondary infection it is better to avoid sex, as it may aggravate the condition
  • After bowel movement, clean or wipe from front to back and avoid spread of pathogens from the rectum to vagina
  • Ensure good genital hygiene
  • Avoid tight-fitting dress that trap moisture between the legs

However, medical screening at regular intervals with scans and physical examinations are advised.

What is the Prognosis of Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva? (Outcomes/Resolutions)

  • The prognosis of Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva is generally excellent, since these are benign lesions
  • If required, appropriate treatment through conservative therapy can help reduce the symptoms of the Vulvar Sebaceous Cysts and bring relief to the affected individual

Additional and Relevant Useful Information for Sebaceous Cysts of Vulva:

The following DoveMed website links are useful resources for additional information:

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Krish Tangella MD, MBA

Pathology, Medical Editorial Board, DoveMed Team


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