Skene’s Gland Cyst

Overview

What is a Skene’s gland cyst?

A Skene’s gland cyst is a cyst that's located near the urethral opening in a person assigned female at birth (AFAB). Your urethra is the tube that moves urine from your bladder to outside your body. It's a part of your urinary system.

Cysts, or sacs of tissue, are generally filled with fluid. Skene’s gland cysts are rare. They may or may not cause symptoms, but can sometimes be filled with pus.

The Skene’s glands are located on either side of the urethra in people AFAB. Researchers think that these glands may secrete fluid that helps with urination and cleanliness. They may also have a function for sexual intercourse, possibly providing the fluid for female ejaculation.

The Skene’s glands are also called Skene’s ducts, paraurethral glands or periurethral glands. You also might hear the cysts called by these names (paraurethral cysts, Skene’s duct cysts, periurethral cysts).

Who gets a Skene’s gland cyst?

Skene’s gland cysts can occur in adults assigned female at birth (AFAB). The cysts are usually small and don’t cause symptoms, but they can get large enough to be bothersome during sexual intercourse or cause trouble urinating. Also, if they get infected, they can be painful.

Babies can be born with Skene’s gland cysts as a congenital condition (a condition you’re born with). Some studies estimate the incidence of these cysts at 1 in 2,000 newborns to 1 in 7,000 newborns.

Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of a Skene’s gland cyst?

Symptoms of a Skene’s gland cyst may include:

What causes a Skene’s gland cyst?

No one knows what causes a Skene’s gland cyst at birth. As an adult, you can get a Skene’s gland cyst if the gland’s duct is blocked. Infection and inflammation can cause blockages in the duct.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is a Skene’s gland cyst diagnosed?

In most cases, your healthcare provider can diagnose a Skene’s gland cyst with a physical examination. If your provider is concerned that the cyst might be a urethral diverticulum (a “pocket” or outpouching that forms next to your urethra), they might order imaging tests, such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Management and Treatment

How is a Skene’s gland cyst treated?

In some cases, particularly in babies, your provider might decide to wait and see what happens. If the cyst isn’t causing problems and is left alone, it might resolve itself.

In adults, if the cyst is not causing symptoms it can be left alone.

If the cyst is causing painful symptoms, the preferred treatment is to remove (excise) the cyst in a surgery.

Your surgeon might aspirate the fluid from the cyst with a needle or simply drain it.

Some surgeons use a technique called marsupialization to treat cysts, including Skene’s gland cysts. The surgeon makes a cut in the cyst and then sutures each side down, leaving the cyst open permanently.

Prevention

How can I reduce my risk of developing a Skene’s gland cyst?

There’s no way that we currently know of to prevent a congenital Skene’s gland cyst from developing in a baby.

If you’re older, you should try to avoid getting pubic-area infections. Use condoms or female condoms if you’re having intercourse to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have a Skene’s gland cyst?

If you have a Skene’s gland cyst and you’re treated, your outlook is good. For one thing, a Skene’s gland cyst isn’t cancerous. For another, it rarely comes back after surgery.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider about a Skene’s gland cyst?

If you’re having pain while urinating or having sex, or if you’re having trouble urinating, contact your healthcare provider. If you’re unable to urinate or are in extreme pain, go to an emergency room. You’ll need a physical exam to determine if you have a Skene’s gland cyst. If you see a lump under the opening of your baby’s urethra and their urine is coming out in a skewed way, contact your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a Skene’s gland cyst and urethral diverticulum?

Urethral diverticulum (UD) and Skene’s gland cyst may cause similar symptoms. You might have pain with urination, pain with sex, urinary tract infections and a lump with either condition. However, the conditions are different. UD is a pocket that forms along your urethra that can hold urine. It’s not part of a gland.

What’s the difference between a Skene's gland cyst and a Bartholin gland cyst?

A Skene’s gland cyst and a Bartholin gland cyst are both fluid-filled growths found in the female reproductive system. They might both cause pain with sex.

One difference between a Skene’s gland cyst and a Bartholin gland cyst (or Bartholin duct cyst) is where they are located. A Skene’s gland cyst is found near the urethra. The Bartholin glands are on either side of the vagina. You can feel a Bartholin gland cyst inside your vagina. It might even be big enough to make your labia on one side larger than the other.

Another difference between a Skene’s gland cyst and Bartholin gland cyst lies in their management. Your provider may want to take a biopsy of Bartholin cyst tissue (removal of tissue) to check for Bartholin gland cancer, a rare form of cancer. A Skene's gland cyst isn't cancerous.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

If you find that you are having pain while urinating or pain while having sex, contact your healthcare provider. It’s most often best to contact your provider early on when you’re worried about symptoms. If they examine you and find a movable lump near your urethral opening, they may diagnose you with a Skene’s gland cyst. Your prognosis, if you have this, is very good.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/30/2021.

References

  • Costantino E, Ganesan GS. Paraurethral cysts in newborn girls. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5093777/) BMJ Case Rep. 2016. doi:10.1136/bcr-2016-216689. Accessed 9/30/2021.
  • Merck Manual Professional Version. Skene Duct Cyst. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/miscellaneous-gynecologic-disorders/skene-duct-cyst) Accessed 9/30/2021.
  • Nguyen JD, Duong H. Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis, Female External Genitalia. [Updated 2021 Jul 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547703/. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547703/) Accessed 9/30/2021.
  • NHS. Bartholin’s cyst. (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bartholins-cyst/) Accessed 9/30/2021.
  • Rosen T, Doherty CB. Rosen T, & Doherty C.B. Rosen, Theodore, and Christy B. Doherty.Genital Lesions in Women. In: Kelly A, Taylor SC, Lim HW, Serrano A. Kelly A, & Taylor S.C., & Lim H.W., & Serrano A(Eds.),Eds. A. Paul Kelly, et al.eds. Taylor and Kelly's Dermatology for Skin of Color, 2e. McGraw Hill; 2016. Accessed 9/30/2021.
  • Shin T, Sato R, Shibuya T, Ando T, Mimata H. Adult-onset Skene's gland cyst following a history of multiple gynecological treatment interventions. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7856313/) Urol Case Rep. 2021;36:101586. Published 2021 Jan 28. doi:10.1016/j.eucr.2021.101586. Accessed 9/30/2021.
  • Urology Care Foundation. What is Urethral Diverticulum? (https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/u/urethral-diverticulum) Accessed 9/30/2021.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy