What are Skene’s glands?
Skene’s glands are two glands located on the lower end of the urethra in women or people assigned female at birth (AFAB). Your urethra is a tube-like organ that removes pee from your body. Skene’s glands aren’t a well-known organ, but they play a role in your sexual and urinary health.
The tissues that surround your Skene’s glands swell in response to sexual stimulation. These glands secrete fluid during sexual arousal, which helps with lubrication. In some people, Skene’s glands may function similar to ejaculation and produce a mucus-like substance during orgasm.
Skene’s glands develop from the same cells that become the prostate in men or people assigned male at birth (AMAB). For this reason, some refer to Skene’s glands as the female prostate. Most people don’t experience issues with their Skene’s glands, but occasionally, infection or inflammation occurs. In rare cases, you can develop cancer in your Skene’s glands.
Skene’s glands are named after Alexander Johnston Chalmers Skene, a physician who studied Skene’s glands. They’re also called Skene’s ducts, lesser vestibular glands, paraurethral glands or periurethral glands.
What is the purpose of the Skene’s gland?
Your Skene’s glands help with urinary and sexual health. Researchers believe these glands secrete a substance to lubricate the opening to your urethra when you pee. This fluid also helps stop the spread of bacteria to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs).
During sexual arousal, your Skene’s glands swell in response to blood flow to the area. They also provide lubrication during sexual intercourse and may even release fluid during orgasm, similar to ejaculation in males. The milk-like fluid from your Skene’s glands contains similar proteins to those found in a man’s semen during ejaculation. Researchers believe the Skene’s glands may be the source of ejaculation in women.
Does everyone have Skene’s glands?
No, not everyone has Skene’s glands. Only people assigned female at birth (AFAB) have Skene’s glands.
Where are the Skene’s glands?
Skene’s glands are about the size of a small blueberry, although the exact size varies among people. They sit on either side of your urethra (where pee exits your body) in the vestibule of your vulva (your external genitalia). The vestibule of your vulva is the area you see when you spread your labia minora (inner lips of your vagina). Once you locate your urethra, you may see the general location of your Skene’s glands. Your Skene’s glands are on the left and right side of your urethral opening but very hard to see. They have tiny openings that allow for fluid secretion, but they’re nearly impossible to see.
Are Skene’s glands visible?
Your Skene’s glands aren’t usually visible to the naked eye. You can try to find them by spreading the inner lips of your vagina and looking near your urethra. However, it’s hard to find them on your own because of their size and location.
Conditions and Disorders
What are the common disorders that affect the Skene’s glands?
It’s rare to have a problem with your Skene’s glands, but it’s possible. Disorders of your Skene’s gland may affect your urethra. Conversely, issues with your urethra can affect your Skene’ glands.
Conditions that affect your Skene’s gland include:
- Skene’s duct cysts.
In rare instances, cancer develops in your Skene’s glands. Only about 20 cases have been reported. Most medical conditions involving your Skene’s gland aren’t serious or cancerous.
The most common disorder of your Skene's glands is skenitis. Skenitis develops from the same infection that causes gonorrhea and can be confused for a UTI (urinary tract infection).
Symptoms of skenitis include:
- Swollen and sore Skene’s glands.
- Painful urination.
- Feeling an urge to pee.
- Painful sex.
- Vaginal pain.
Your healthcare provider will prescribe antibiotics if they suspect you have skenitis. Prolonged infection can cause abscesses to form, which may require surgical removal.
When should I see my healthcare provider?
Contact your healthcare provider if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Painful urination.
- Pelvic pain.
- Painful sex.
- Bloody or cloudy pee.
- Urinary incontinence.
- Foul-smelling pee or vaginal discharge.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your Skene’s glands are tiny ducts that produce fluid to help with urinary and sexual health. Researchers are still studying their function and purpose, but they know it helps with lubrication and contains antimicrobial properties to help ward off infection. You’ll likely go your entire life not having any issues with your Skene’s glands, but occasionally, they become infected. In rare cases, cancer develops. Talk to your healthcare provider if you experience painful urination, painful sex or changes in how often you pee so they can evaluate your symptoms.
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