Nabothian cysts are benign bumps on the cervix. The cysts are full of clear, light yellow, or amber mucus. People may have more than one nabothian cyst.
A doctor may also refer to nabothian cysts as nabothian follicles, epithelial inclusion cysts, or mucinous retention cysts.
Nabothian glands line the cervix and release mucus. If skin cells in the cervix cover the glands, they can block the glands and prevent them from releasing mucus.
When mucus builds up in the blocked glands, it forms a smooth bump called a nabothian cyst.
Because new tissue growth can cause cysts to form, an injury to or an infection of the cervix, such as cervicitis, can cause nabothian cysts.
People often develop nabothian cysts during their fertile years, after childbirth and when going through the menopause.
However, nabothian cysts are most common in females who have given birth. This is because after giving birth, new tissue grows on the cervix, which can block the nabothian glands that line the surface of the cervix, causing cysts to develop.
One study reports how a large nabothian cyst blocked the labor passage in a pregnant woman. Doctors drained the cyst, which allowed the safe delivery of a healthy baby.
Small nabothian cysts do not usually cause any symptoms. However, larger nabothian cysts may cause:
- pelvic pain
- a full or heavy feeling in the vagina
- irregular periods
A doctor may identify nabothian cysts during a routine pelvic or pregnancy examination.
If a doctor identifies a nabothian cyst, they may carry out a colposcopy to examine the cysts more closely. This can determine whether the bumps are nabothian cysts or other types of bumps that can form on the cervix.
If a doctor finds a nabothian cyst, they may take a tissue sample of the cyst to check it is not another type of bump. Nabothian cysts can sometimes look like adenoma malignum, which is a rare type of cervical cancer.
If people have adenoma malignum, they may experience symptoms such as:
- painful cramps during menstruation
- prolonged or heavier menstruation than usual
- bleeding during or after sex
- watery vaginal discharge
If a doctor suspects a bump on the cervix is not benign, they will surgically remove it. It is important people attend routine cervical examinations to check for anything unusual.
Small nabothian cysts do not need treatment. A nabothian cyst may range from 2–10 millimeters (mm) in diameter. Nabothian cysts usually disappear without treatment.
If a large nabothian cyst is causing symptoms, people may need a surgical procedure to remove it.
A doctor may use one of the following procedures to remove a nabothian cyst:
- electrocautery, which involves the use of a small probe with an electric current to burn off the cyst
- cryotherapy, which involves the use of liquid nitrogen to freeze the cyst off
Nabothian cysts are full of mucus and can rupture. If a nabothian cyst does burst, a person may notice unusual discharge or odor from the vagina. If this continues, they should see their doctor to check the cause.
In many cases, nabothian cysts are not a cause for concern, and most people do not experience any symptoms.
However, large nabothian cysts may block the cervix and make it difficult for a doctor to carry out routine check-ups of the cervix.
Multiple, large nabothian cysts can cause the cervix to expand.
Large nabothian cysts can sometimes cause genital prolapse, although reports of this are rare. Genital prolapse occurs when pelvic organs, such as the uterus, drop down lower than usual. This can cause discomfort and a dragging sensation in the pelvic area.
In these cases, people may need a cystectomy to remove the cyst and treatment for genital prolapse.
The outlook is very positive for nabothian cysts. Typically, nabothian cysts cause no symptoms and do not require any treatment. Nabothian cysts are relatively common, and many people have them.
Anyone who has a nabothian cyst should ensure they have regular cervical examinations to check that the cysts are not getting larger. If the cysts do increase in size, they could start causing symptoms.
If people have uncomfortable symptoms from nabothian cysts, or the cysts are making routine cervical examinations difficult, they may need surgical treatment to remove the cysts.