What are ovarian cysts?
Ovarian cysts are sacs of fluid that form on either the ovary or its surface. Women possess two ovaries which sit on either side of the uterus. The ovaries release eggs every month as a part of a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Rarely, an ovarian cyst may develop into a more serious condition. If the cyst grows too large, the ovary can twist. This results in a dangerous condition known as ovarian torsion. Some cysts also run the risk of rupturing, which can cause internal bleeding. Both conditions can arise without warning and require medical intervention.
It is important to understand the causes and symptoms of cysts. Keeping up with your regular pelvic exams can help you stay healthy. Ovarian cysts are primarily caused by hormonal imbalance, endometriosis, or the natural occurrence of a corpus luteum cyst.
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cysts
Though some ovarian cysts occur without pain and cause no harm, some women with cysts experience significant symptoms. The signs and symptoms of ovarian cysts can include:
Ovarian cysts can sometimes be accompanied by drastic or unusual weight gain. This can occur when the ovarian cyst is the result of a hormonal imbalance.
Painful and heavy menstruation
A common symptom of ovarian cysts are painful menstrual periods. Many women also experience heavy bleeding, very painful cramping, and severe bloating.
Types of ovarian cysts
Depending on the cause of an ovarian cyst, there are several different types of ovarian cysts:
Corpus luteum cyst
A corpus luteum cyst is another form of functional cyst, which occurs when the follicle bursts but continues to grow as a cyst. Most corpus luteum cysts are harmless, painless, and resolve on their own.
These cysts are filled with a fluid or mucus-like material and occur on the surface of the ovary.
Endometriomas are the result of endometriosis, in which uterine cells grow outside of the uterus.
Causes of ovarian cysts
There are several potential causes of ovarian cysts. Underlying causes may include:
Hormonal imbalance can lead to a higher chance of developing an ovarian cyst. Hormonal imbalance can be triggered by ongoing fertility treatments or other underlying issues.
Once the egg is released from the follicle, corpus luteum cysts can sometimes continue growing into a woman’s pregnancy. Many times, the cyst may resolve on its own during pregnancy or after.
Endometriosis is a fairly common condition that causes the endometrial cells from the uterus to grow beyond the uterine walls. Endometrial tissues can attach to your ovaries and form a cyst.
Pelvic infections can lead to the formation of cysts if the infection reaches the ovaries.
If you have previously experienced an ovarian cyst, you are likely to develop another.
When to see the doctor for ovarian cysts
If you experience any painful symptoms associated with an ovarian cyst, you should seek medical treatment. You should seek immediate treatment if you experience any of the following symptoms:
These symptoms may indicate a ruptured cyst or ovarian torsion, which can be dangerous if left untreated.
Diagnosing ovarian cysts
Ovarian cysts can often be diagnosed during a routine pelvic exam. Depending on the type of the cyst, your doctor will recommend additional tests in order to determine a treatment plan. Potential tests may be:
Treatments for ovarian cysts
Once you have been diagnosed with an ovarian cyst, your doctor may recommend:
- Follow-up appointments to monitor the growth of the cyst
- Hormonal birth control to slow the growth of your cyst
- Surgery to remove the cyst
Women's Conditions Resources
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InformedHealth.org: "Ovarian cysts: Overview."
Korean Journal of Radiology: "Ruptured Corpus Luteal Cyst: CT Findings."
MayoClinic: "Ovarian cysts."
MedicineNet: "Ovarian Cysts: Symptoms, Causes, Types, and Treatment."
StatPearls: "Ovarian Cyst."