Ovarian Cysts Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Types, and Treatment
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
- Ovarian cysts definition and facts
- What are the ovaries and how big are they?
- What are ovarian cysts?
- What causes ovarian cysts? What are the types of ovarian cysts?
- What are the signs and symptoms of ovarian cysts?
- What are the symptoms of a ruptured ovarian cyst?
- Can ovarian cysts cause cancer?
- What about ovarian cysts during pregnancy?
- Can a woman get ovarian cysts during menopase or postmenopause?
- How are ovarian cysts diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for ovarian cysts?
- What about surgery for ovarian cysts?
- Which specialties of doctors treat ovarian cysts?
- What is the prognosis for a woman with ovarian cysts?
- Can ovarian cysts be prevented?
- Find a local Obstetrician-Gynecologist in your town
Ovarian cysts definition and facts
- Ovarian cysts are closed, sac-like structures within the ovary that are filled with a liquid or semisolid substance.
- Ovarian cysts may not cause signs or symptoms. Larger cysts are more likely to cause signs and symptoms such as:
- Pain in the abdomen, pelvis, sometimes radiating to the low back, is the most common symptom
- Feeling of bloating or indigestion
- Increased abdominal girth
- Feeling an urge to have a bowel movement or having difficult, painful bowel movements
- Pain during sexual intercourse (dyspareunia)
- Pain in the lower right or left quadrant of the abdomen on one side
- Nausea and vomiting
- There are many causes and types of ovarian cysts, for example, follicular cysts, "chocolate cysts," dermoid cysts, and cysts due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
- Most ovarian cysts are not cancerous.
- Most ovarian cysts are diagnosed with ultrasound or physical examination. Transvaginal ultrasound is a common way to examine ovarian cysts.
- The treatment of an ovarian cyst depends upon the cause of the cyst and varies from observation and monitoring to surgical treatment.
- Rupture of an ovarian cyst is a complication that sometimes produces severe pain and internal bleeding. A ruptured (burst) ovarian cyst usually causes pain on one side that comes on suddenly.
What are the ovaries and how big are they?
The ovary is one of a pair of reproductive glands in women that are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. Each ovary is about the size and shape of a walnut. The ovaries produce eggs (ova) and the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. The ovaries are the main source of female hormones, which control the development of female body characteristics such as the breasts, body shape, and body hair. They also regulate the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.
What are ovarian cysts?
Ovarian cysts are closed, sac-like structures within an ovary that contain a liquid, or semisolid substance. "Cyst" is merely a general term for a fluid-filled structure, which may or may not represent a tumor or neoplasm (new growth). If it is a tumor, it may be benign or malignant. The ovary is also referred to as the female gonad.
What causes ovarian cysts? What are the types of ovarian cysts?
There are many causes of ovarian cysts, and most ovarian cysts are not cancerous.
- Follicular cysts: The most common type is a follicular cyst, which results from the growth of a follicle. A follicle is the normal fluid-filled sac that contains an egg. Follicular cysts form when the follicle grows larger than normal during the menstrual cycle and does not open to release the egg. Usually, follicular cysts resolve on their own over the course of days to months. Follicular cysts can contain blood (hemorrhagic cysts) from leakage of blood into the egg sac.
- Corpus luteum cysts: A Corpus luteum cyst is related to the menstrual cycle. The corpus luteum is an area of tissue within the ovary that occurs after an egg has been released from a follicle. If a pregnancy doesn't occur, the corpus luteum usually breaks down and disappears. It may, however, fill with fluid or blood and persist as a cyst on the ovary. Usually, this cyst is found on only one side, produces no symptoms and resolves spontaneously.
- "Chocolate cysts:" Endometriosis is a condition in which cells that normally grow inside as a lining of the uterus (womb), instead grow outside of the uterus in other locations. The ovary is a common site for endometriosis. When endometriosis involves the ovary, the area of endometrial tissue may grow and bleed over time, forming a blood-filled cyst with red- or brown-colored contents called an endometrioma, sometimes referred to as a "chocolate cyst."
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome: The condition known as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is characterized by the presence of multiple small cysts within both ovaries. PCOS is associated with a number of hormonal problems and is the most common cause of infertility in women.
- Dermoid cysts (benign cystic teratomas): Both benign and malignant tumors of the ovary may also be cystic. Occasionally, the tissues of the ovary develop abnormally to form other body tissues such as hair or teeth. Cysts with these abnormal tissues are really tumors called benign cystic teratomas or dermoid cysts.
- Tubo-ovarian abscesses: Infections of the pelvic organs can involve the ovaries and Fallopian tubes. In severe cases, pus-filled cystic spaces may be present on, in, or around the ovary or tubes. These are known as tubo-ovarian abscesses.
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