Follicular Cyst
Follicular cysts, also called ovarian or functional cysts, appear on or in the ovary. Filled with fluid, follicular cysts are common in women o...

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What Are Follicular Cysts?

Follicular cysts, also called ovarian or functional cysts, appear on or in the ovary. Filled with fluid, follicular cysts are common in women of reproductive age. Follicular cysts are very rare in prepubescent girls or postmenopausal women.

They should not be confused with more serious types of cysts that occur in the ovaries, including cysts from endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome, or tumors.

Most follicular cysts are painless, harmless, and not cancerous. In rare cases, these cysts can lead to complications that require medical attention.

What Are the Symptoms of Follicular Cysts?

Most follicular cysts do not have any symptoms.

If the cyst becomes large or ruptures, there may be pain, pressure, or bloating in the low abdomen. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, tenderness in the breasts, or a change in length of the menstrual cycle.

An enlarged cyst can put pressure on the bladder or bowels. This can cause a woman to feel like she needs to use the bathroom.

In the case of sharp or sudden pain, especially if accompanied by fever or nausea, seek medical treatment immediately. These symptoms may be signs of a more serious medical emergency.

What Causes Follicular Cysts?

Follicular cysts are a normal part of menstruation. During menstruation, an ovary creates a follicle. This follicle houses the egg and produces the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Normally, the pituitary gland creates a hormone that tells the follicle to release the egg. When this hormone is not released by the pituitary gland, the follicle continues to grow. It then fills with fluid and develops into a follicular cyst.

Women taking oral contraceptives rarely develop follicular cysts because the contraceptives don’t allow the ovary to create a follicle.

Follicular cysts are more likely to develop in women who have had ovarian cysts in the past.

Other risk factors include:

  • young age of first menstrual cycle (11 or younger)
  • irregular cycles
  • hormone imbalances
  • stress
  • excessive fat, especially around the torso
  • use of fertility drugs

How Are Follicular Cysts Diagnosed?

Because follicular cysts are asymptomatic, most clear up on their own before they are ever noticed. In some cases, a physician will discover a follicular cyst during a routine exam. For otherwise healthy women of childbearing age, a symptomless cyst will be left to dissipate on its own. A physician might suggest testing, like a vaginal sonogram, to ensure that the lump isn’t cancerous.

For women who experience pain or other symptoms, a pelvic examination along with an X-ray or an ultrasound might be used to identify a cyst. Since the symptoms of a ruptured cyst are similar to the symptoms of appendicitis and several other conditions, the doctor will first need to determine the cause of symptoms.

How Are Follicular Cysts Treated?

Most follicular cysts go away on their own within a few months without treatment. Because follicular cysts are not cancerous, they do not pose a risk. Most are never diagnosed.

If a cyst is discovered but doesn’t cause any problems, a doctor may simply monitor it during your regular exams. If the cyst is a threat, he or she might suggest regular pelvis ultrasounds to make sure that the cyst is not growing.

Surgery may be required if the cyst becomes large enough to cause pain or block the blood supply to the fallopian tube and ovary. In postmenopausal women, a follicular cyst is more likely to cause problems and will usually be surgically removed.

To prevent future cysts, a doctor might prescribe birth control medications or other solutions to control hormone imbalance.

Written by: Amber Erickson Gabbey
Edited by:
Medically Reviewed by: George Krucik, MD, MBA
Published: Jan 27, 2014
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.
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