What is corpus luteum?
Corpus luteum is the final stage in the life cycle of the ovarian follicle. After ovulation, the corpus luteum forms from the empty follicle that is left behind from the released egg. It is a temporary gland structure that releases estrogen and progesterone to prepare the body for conception. If fertilization does not occur, the corpus luteum breaks down and triggers menstruation.
Occasionally, the burst corpus luteum will reseal and fill with fluid — forming an ovarian cyst. They are usually benign and painless and may resolve on their own. They can appear near menstruation or at any other point during the cycle, including early pregnancy. As such, while it may occur with pregnancy, it does not always indicate pregnancy.
In rare cases, a corpus luteum cyst can develop into a more serious condition. If the cyst grows to an unusually large size, the ovary may twist — causing a dangerous condition known as ovarian torsion. Oversized cysts also run the risk of rupturing, which causes internal bleeding. Both conditions onset suddenly and require medical intervention.
Signs and symptoms of corpus luteum cyst
While corpus luteum cysts are often painless and harmless, some women experience significant symptoms. Signs and symptoms of a corpus luteum cyst may include:
One of the most common symptoms of a cyst is pain during intercourse. Pain can be experienced as a dull ache, sharp pain, or soreness after sex.
Some women also experience aching in the form of low back pain, cramping in the legs, or tenderness of the breasts.
Unusual weight gain may signal the formation of a corpus luteum cyst.
Painful and heavy menstruation
If you have a corpus luteum cyst, you may experience menstrual periods that include excessive bleeding, exceptionally painful cramping, and unusual bloating.
Causes of corpus luteum cysts
There are several causes of corpus luteum cysts. They typically form from the burst follicle after ovulation. But there may be other underlying causes, such as:
You may have a higher chance of developing a corpus luteum cyst if you have a hormonal imbalance. This can be caused by ongoing fertility treatments or other underlying issues.
Pregnant women sometimes retain the corpus luteum cyst from their last ovulation throughout their pregnancy. Often, the cyst will resolve on its own during pregnancy or afterward but should be monitored throughout.
Endometriosis is a condition that causes the endometrial cells typically found in the uterus to grow beyond the uterine walls. The tissue sometimes attaches to your ovaries and forms a growth or cyst — making women with endometriosis more likely to develop corpus luteum cysts.
Women who have previously experienced corpus luteum cysts are likely to develop them multiple times.
When to see the doctor for corpus luteum cysts
You should see your doctor if you experience any painful symptoms associated with corpus luteum cysts. You should seek emergency treatment if you experience any of the following:
These symptoms may be a sign of a ruptured cyst or ovarian torsion, which can be life-threatening if left untreated.
Diagnosing corpus luteum cysts
Corpus luteum cysts can be observed during a pelvic exam. Depending on the quality of the cyst, your doctor may recommend tests to determine a treatment plan. Potential tests include:
Treatments for corpus luteum cysts
Depending on the state of the corpus luteum cyst, your doctor may recommend:
- Follow-up appointments to monitor the progress of the cyst.
- Hormonal contraceptives for reducing the risk of forming ovarian cysts.
- Surgery to remove the cyst.
Women's Conditions Resources
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Korean Journal of Radiology: "Ruptured Corpus Luteal Cyst: CT Findings."
MayoClinic: "Ovarian cysts."
MedicineNet: "Ovarian Cysts: Symptoms, Causes, Types, and Treatment."
StatPearls: "Ovarian Cyst."