Ovarian cysts most often appear when an egg is released from an ovary. Corpus luteum cysts and follicle cysts are the two most common types. Others are cystadenomas, dermoids and endometriomas.
These common fluid-filled growths are usually benign, and they often go unnoticed. They can be caused by hormonal problems, pelvic infection, endometriosis and pregnancy. Malignancy (ovarian cancer) is rare, especially in younger women.
The presence of ovarian cysts doesn’t have any negative effects on the probability to become pregnant. However, if these cysts are connected to other issues such as endometriosis or derive from a polycystic ovarian syndrome, it might be more difficult for the woman to conceive.
The signs and severity of symptoms depend on the size and type of growth. The most common symptom of an ovarian cyst is stabbing, ongoing or intermittent pain on one side of the lower pelvic region, abdominal pressure and a feeling of fullness. Symptoms that occur less frequently may include:
Large cysts can cause an ovary to twist and rupture. Signs of a ruptured ovary are excruciating pain in the lower pelvic region, fever, internal bleeding, queasiness, vomiting and shock. These symptoms require immediate medical care.
The most common type of ovarian cysts (functional cysts) develops because of menstruation. The ovaries typically grow ductule-like structures every month called follicles, and if these follicles continue to grow, they’re called functional cysts. A follicular cyst occurs when an egg that normally ruptures through the follicle and then journeys down through the fallopian tube doesn’t discharge or breaks.
A corpus luteum is another type of cyst that occurs when the follicle starts producing huge amounts of progesterone and estrogen for conception and fluid begins accumulating in the follicle, which then causes the corpus luteum to grow.
These two types of cysts are typically painless, harmless and disappear by themselves in about two to three months. However, there are other types of cysts which can cause pain and other complications, such as ovarian torsion and rupture.
Dermoid cysts, often called teratomas, are formed from embryonic cells and aren’t usually cancerous. Because they’re formed from embryonic cells, these cysts might include skin, teeth and hair. Endometriomas are cysts that form because of endometriosis (a condition that causes uterine endometrial cells to grow outside of your uterus). When the tissue attaches to your ovaries, a growth usually forms.
Treatment for an ovarian cyst depends on the type, size, age and overall symptoms. Treatment for an ovarian cyst may include:
There’s no way to completely prevent ovarian cysts. However, with regular pelvic examinations, you can help catch any changes in your ovaries early. Some women have tried birth control pills to help with ovarian cysts. Pregnancy, and breastfeeding in the first six months, prevents ovulation, which, therefore, reduces your risk of getting an ovarian cyst.
Anything that prevents ovulation can reduce your risk of getting an ovarian cyst. Women in menopause have a significantly lower risk of ovarian cysts because they no longer ovulate.
If you notice any changes during your monthly cycle, tell your doctor immediately, especially if it lasts more than a few months.