About ovarian cysts

What is ovarian cysts?

Ovarian cysts facts

  • Ovarian cysts are closed, sac-like structures within the ovary that are filled with a liquid or semisolid substance.
  • Ovarian cysts form for numerous reasons.
  • Pain in the abdomen or pelvis is the most common symptom of an ovarian cyst, but most are asymptomatic.
  • Most cysts are diagnosed by ultrasound or physical exam.
  • The treatment of an ovarian cyst depends upon its likely diagnosis and varies from observation and monitoring to surgical treatment.

What is the ovary and what are ovarian cysts?

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 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. 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 are the symptoms for ovarian cysts?

Pain in the back symptom was found in the ovarian cysts condition

Most cysts don't cause symptoms and go away on their own. However, a large ovarian cyst can cause:

  • Pelvic pain — a dull or sharp ache in the lower abdomen on the side of the cyst
  • Fullness or heaviness in your abdomen
  • Bloating

When to see a doctor

Seek immediate medical attention if you have:

  • Sudden, severe abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Pain with Fever or vomiting

If you have these signs and symptoms or those of shock — cold, clammy skin; rapid breathing; and lightheadedness or Weakness — see a doctor right away.

What are the causes for ovarian cysts?

Most ovarian cysts develop as a result of your menstrual cycle (functional cysts). Other types of cysts are much less common.

Functional cysts

Your ovaries normally grow cyst-like structures called follicles each month. Follicles produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone and release an egg when you ovulate.

If a normal monthly follicle keeps growing, it's known as a functional cyst. There are two types of functional cysts:

  • Follicular cyst. Around the midpoint of your menstrual cycle, an egg bursts out of its follicle and travels down the fallopian tube. A follicular cyst begins when the follicle doesn't rupture or release its egg, but continues to grow.
  • Corpus luteum cyst. When a follicle releases its egg, it begins producing estrogen and progesterone for conception. This follicle is now called the corpus luteum. Sometimes, fluid accumulates inside the follicle, causing the corpus luteum to grow into a cyst.

Functional cysts are usually harmless, rarely cause pain, and often disappear on their own within two or three menstrual cycles.

Other cysts

Types of cysts not related to the normal function of your menstrual cycle include:

  • Dermoid cysts. Also called teratomas, these can contain tissue, such as hair, skin or teeth, because they form from embryonic cells. They're rarely cancerous.
  • Cystadenomas. These develop on the surface of an ovary and might be filled with a watery or a mucous material.
  • Endometriomas. These develop as a result of a condition in which uterine endometrial cells grow outside your uterus (endometriosis). Some of the tissue can attach to your ovary and form a growth.

Dermoid cysts and cystadenomas can become large, causing the ovary to move out of position. This increases the chance of painful twisting of your ovary, called ovarian torsion. Ovarian torsion may also result in decreasing or stopping blood flow to the ovary.

What are the treatments for ovarian cysts?

Treatment depends on your age, the type and size of your cyst, and your symptoms. Your doctor might suggest:

  • Watchful waiting. In many cases you can wait and be re-examined to see if the cyst goes away within a few months. This is typically an option — regardless of your age — if you have no symptoms and an ultrasound shows you have a simple, small, fluid-filled cyst.

    Your doctor will likely recommend that you get follow-up pelvic ultrasounds at intervals to see if your cyst changes in size.

  • Medication. Your doctor might recommend hormonal contraceptives, such as birth control pills, to keep ovarian cysts from recurring. However, birth control pills won't shrink an existing cyst.
  • Surgery. Your doctor might suggest removing a cyst that is large, doesn't look like a functional cyst, is growing, continues through two or three menstrual cycles, or causes pain.

    Some cysts can be removed without removing the ovary (ovarian cystectomy). In some cases, your doctor might suggest removing the affected ovary and leaving the other intact (oophorectomy).

    If a cystic mass is cancerous, your doctor will likely refer you to a gynecologic cancer specialist. You might need to have your uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes removed (total hysterectomy) and possibly chemotherapy or radiation. Your doctor is also likely to recommend surgery when an ovarian cyst develops after menopause.

What are the risk factors for ovarian cysts?

Your risk of developing an ovarian cyst is heightened by:

  • Hormonal problems. These include taking the fertility drug clomiphene (Clomid), which is used to cause you to ovulate.
  • Pregnancy. Sometimes, the cyst that forms when you ovulate stays on your ovary throughout your pregnancy.
  • Endometriosis. This condition causes uterine endometrial cells to grow outside your uterus. Some of the tissue can attach to your ovary and form a growth.
  • A severe pelvic infection. If the infection spreads to the ovaries, it can cause cysts.
  • A previous ovarian cyst. If you've had one, you're likely to develop more.

Is there a cure/medications for ovarian cysts?

If you have ovarian cysts, there is no cure. However, there are some medications that can help to manage the pain and discomfort of your symptoms.

  • It's important to see a doctor who can properly diagnose them and begin treatment as soon as possible. Your doctor may also recommend that you take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help ease your discomfort while they work on finding the best treatment plan for you.
  • The medication most commonly used is called danazol. It works by blocking the effects of estrogen in your body, which usually causes the cyst's growth. This can help reduce pain and other symptoms related to ovarian cysts.
  • However, danazol does not cure ovarian cysts and you will still have them after taking this medication for a few months or years. The good news is that danazol doesn't usually cause any serious side effects, so it's a good option if you're looking for something that will help manage your symptoms without causing too many negative effects on your body or mind.
  • If you have a large ovarian cyst causing discomfort or pain, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove it. Surgery is generally only recommended for women who have been diagnosed with benign ovarian cysts (see "What Are Benign Ovarian Cysts?" below).
  • Future of Solar TechnologyIt's important to note that surgery does not prevent future occurrences. It only helps get rid of existing cysts or tumors.
  • There are a number of herbal remedies that are known to help with ovarian cysts, but it's important to note that these are not FDA-approved, so their effectiveness has not been tested by clinical trials.

Pain in the back, pelvis, or side part of the body,Pain during sexual intercourse,Abnormal menstruation,Irregular menstruation,Painful menstruation, or spotting,Cramping or excessive hairiness
A dull or sharp ache in the lower abdomen on the side of the cyst
Combined oral contraceptive pills,Progestin-only pills (mini pills),The patch (Ortho Evra),The vaginal ring (NuvaRing)Duloxetine (Cymbalta),Imipramine (Tofranil),Sertraline (Zoloft)

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