The Bartholin's glands (also called Bartholin glands or greater vestibular glands) are two pea sized compound alveolar glands located slightly posterior and to the left and right of the opening of the vagina. They secrete mucus to lubricate the vagina and are homologous to bulbourethral glands in males. However, while Bartholin's glands are located in the superficial perineal pouch in females, bulbourethral glands are located in the deep perineal pouch in males. Their duct length is 1.5 to 2.0 cm and they open into navicular fossa. The ducts are paired and they open on the surface of the vulva.
Female genital organs with Bartholin's gland circled
|Artery||external pudendal artery|
|Lymph||superficial inguinal lymph nodes|
|Latin||glandula vestibularis major|
Bartholin's glands were first described in the 17th century by the Danish anatomist Caspar Bartholin the Younger (1655–1738). Some sources mistakenly ascribe their discovery to his grandfather, theologian and anatomist Caspar Bartholin the Elder (1585–1629).
Bartholin's glands secrete mucus to provide vaginal lubrication during sexual arousal. The fluid may slightly moisten the labial opening of the vagina, serving to make contact with this sensitive area more comfortable. Fluid from the Bartholin's glands is combined with other vaginal secretions as a "lubrication fluid" in the amount of about 6 grams per day, and contains high potassium and low sodium concentrations relative to blood plasma, with a slightly acidic pH of 4.7.
It is possible for the Bartholin's glands to become blocked and inflamed resulting in pain. This is known as bartholinitis or a Bartholin's cyst. A Bartholin's cyst in turn can become infected and form an abscess. Adenocarcinoma of the gland is rare and benign tumors and hyperplasia are even more rare. Bartholin gland carcinoma is a rare malignancy that occurs in 1% of vulvar cancers. This may be due to the presence of three different types of epithelial tissue. Inflammation of the Skene's glands and Bartholin glands may appear similar to cystocele.
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