What Are Ovarian Cysts?
The ovaries are
part of the female reproductive system. They are located in the lower abdomen
on both sides of the uterus. Women have two ovaries that produce eggs, as well
as the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Sometimes, a fluid-filled sac called a cyst will develop on one of the ovaries. Many women will develop at
least one cyst during their life. In most cases, cysts are painless and cause
Types of Ovarian Cysts
various types of ovarian cysts, such as dermoid cysts and endometrioma cysts.
However, functional cysts are the
most common type. The two types of functional cysts include follicle and corpus
woman’s menstrual cycle, an egg grows in a sac called a follicle. This sac is
located inside the ovaries. In most cases, this follicle or sac breaks open and
releases an egg. But if the follicle doesn’t break open, the fluid inside the
follicle can form a cyst on the ovary.
typically dissolve after releasing an egg. But if the sac doesn’t dissolve and
the opening of the follicle seals, additional fluid can develop inside the sac
and this accumulation of fluid causes a cyst.
Other types of
ovarian cysts include:
- dermoid cysts: sac-like growths on the ovaries
that can contain hair, fat, and other tissue
- cystadenomas: non-cancerous growths that
can develop on the outer surface of ovaries
- endometriomas: tissues that normally grow inside
the uterus can develop outside the uterus and attach to the ovaries, resulting
in a cyst
women develop a condition called polycystic
ovary syndrome. This is when the ovaries contain a large number of small
cysts. This condition can cause the ovaries to enlarge, and if left untreated,
polycystic ovaries can cause infertility problems.
Symptoms of an Ovarian Cyst
ovarian cysts do not cause any symptoms. However, symptoms can appear as the
cyst grows. Symptoms may include:
bloating or swelling
pain before or during the menstrual cycle
in the lower back or thighs
symptoms of an ovarian cyst that require immediate medical attention include:
or sharp pelvic pain
symptoms can indicate a ruptured cyst or an ovarian torsion. Both complications
can have serious consequences if not treated early.
Ovarian Cyst Complications
cysts are benign and naturally go away on their own without treatment. These
cysts cause little, if any, symptoms. But in a rare case, your doctor may
detect a cancerous cystic ovarian mass during a routine examination.
Ovarian torsion is another rare complication of ovarian cysts. This
is when a large cyst causes an ovary to twist or move from its original
position. Blood supply to the ovary is cut off, and if not treated, it can
cause damage or death to the ovarian tissue.
Although uncommon, ovarian torsion accounts for nearly 3 percent of
emergency gynecological surgeries.
Ruptured cysts, which are also rare, can cause intense pain and
internal bleeding. This complication increases your risk of an infection and
can be life-threatening if left untreated.
Diagnosing an Ovarian Cyst
can detect an ovarian cyst during a routine pelvic examination. He or she may
notice swelling on one of your ovaries and order an ultrasound to confirm the
presence of a cyst. An ultrasound is an imaging test that uses high-frequency
sound waves to produce an image of your internal organs. Ultrasounds help
determine the size, location, shape, and composition (solid or fluid-filled) of
tools used to diagnose ovarian cysts include:
scan: a body
imaging device used to create cross-sectional images of internal organs
- MRI: a test that uses magnetic fields
to produce in-depth images of internal organs
- Ultrasound: an imaging device used to
visualize the ovary
majority of cysts disappear after a few weeks or months, your doctor may not
immediately recommend a treatment plan. Instead, he or she may repeat the
ultrasound in a few weeks or months to check your condition.
aren’t any changes in your condition or if the cyst increases in size, your
doctor will request additional tests to determine other causes of your
- pregnancy test: to determine whether or not
- hormone level test: to check for hormone-related
issues, such as too much estrogen or progesterone
- CA 125 Blood test: to screen for ovarian cancer
Treatment for an Ovarian Cyst
If a cyst does
not go away on its own or if it grows larger, your doctor may recommend
treatment to shrink or remove the cyst.
Birth Control Pills
If you suffer
from recurrent ovarian cysts, your doctor can prescribe oral contraceptives to
stop ovulation and prevent the development of new cysts. Oral contraceptives
can also reduce your risk of ovarian cancer. The risk of ovarian cancer is
higher in postmenopausal women.
If your cyst
is small and an imaging test rules out cancer, your doctor can perform a
laparoscopy to surgically remove the cyst. The procedure involves your doctor
making a tiny incision near your navel and then inserting a small instrument
into your abdomen to remove the cyst.
If you have a
large cyst, he or she can surgically remove the cyst through a large incision
in your abdomen. Your doctor will conduct an immediate biopsy, and if he or she
determines that the cyst is cancerous, he or she may perform a hysterectomy to
remove your ovaries and uterus.
Ovarian Cyst Prevention
cannot be prevented. However, routine gynecological examinations can detect
ovarian cysts early. Benign ovarian cysts do not become cancerous. However,
symptoms of ovarian cancer can mimic symptoms of an ovarian cyst. Thus, it is
important to visit your doctor and receive a correct diagnosis. Alert your
doctor to symptoms that may indicate a problem, such as:
- changes in your menstrual cycle
- ongoing pelvic pain
- loss of appetite
- unexplained weight loss
- abdominal fullness
Outlook for Ovarian Cyst
for ovarian cysts in premenopausal women is good and most cysts disappear
within a few months. However, recurrent ovarian cysts can occur in
premenopausal women and women with hormonal imbalances.
untreated, some cysts can decrease fertility. This is common with endometrioma
cysts and polycystic ovarian syndrome. To increase fertility, your doctor can
remove or shrink the cyst. Functional cysts, cystadenomas, and dermoid cysts do
not affect fertility.
doctors take a “wait and see” approach with ovarian cysts, your doctor may
recommend surgery to remove and examine any cyst or growth that develops on the
ovaries after menopause. This is because the risk of developing a cancerous
cyst and ovarian cancer increases after menopause. Some doctors will remove a
cyst in premenopausal and postmenopausal women if it is larger than 4 inches in
do not increase the risk of ovarian cancer.