Female genital organs
|Latin||glandula vestibularis major|
|external pudendal artery|
|superficial inguinal lymph nodes|
The Bartholin's glands (also called Bartholin glands or greater vestibular glands) are two pea sized compound racemose 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 open into navicular fossa. The ducts are paired and open on the surface of the vulva.
Bartholin's glands secrete mucus to provide vaginal lubrication. Bartholin's glands secrete relatively minute amounts of fluid when a woman is sexually aroused. The minute droplets of fluid were once believed to be important for lubricating the vagina, but research from Masters and Johnson demonstrated that vaginal lubrication comes from deeper within the vagina. The fluid may slightly moisten the labial opening of the vagina, serving to make contact with this sensitive area more comfortable for the woman.
Although unusual, it is possible for the Bartholin's glands to become irritated or infected, resulting in pain. Inflammation of these glands can be caused by but not limited to gonorrhoeal and chlamydial infections and is called bartholinitis. If the duct becomes obstructed, a Bartholin's cyst can develop, and a Bartholin's cyst in turn can become infected and form an abscess. Adenocarcinoma of the gland is rare, but benign tumors and hyperplasia are even more rare.
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).
- Greater Vestibular (Bartholin) gland
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- Anatomy photo:41:11-0200 at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center—"The Female Perineum: Muscles of the Superficial Perineal Pouch"
- Anatomy image:9243 at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center
- Anatomy image:9694 at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center—opening
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