Most women have heard of or know someone who has experience with ovarian cysts. They’re usually associated with pain or other reproductive issues, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome, which clouds them in a lot of misunderstanding. The truth is, ovarian cysts are very common and more often than not, undetectable and harmless!
What is an ovarian cyst?
A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that can form anywhere in or on the body. An ovarian cyst, obviously, is one that forms in or on the ovaries. There are a few different types of ovarian cysts that can form during your cycle.
The eggs your ovaries produce during your menstrual cycle grow in a sac called a follicle. As the egg grows, cells in the follicle secrete fluid that push the egg toward the wall. When your body ovulates, the egg pushes through the wall and breaks open the follicle.
On occasion, the egg will fail to break out of the follicle and fluid will continue to build, forming a cyst. Follicle cysts usually have no symptoms and go away on their own within a few months.
Corpus Luteum Cyst
Normally, after a follicle releases an egg, it will dissolve on its own into a mass of cells called corpus luteum. If, instead of shrinking, a follicle seals its opening after the egg release, it may continue to fill with fluid and form a corpus luteum cyst.
These cysts also typically go away on their own after a few weeks. However, they can sometimes bleed, rupture, or cause twisting of the ovary. Corpus luteum cysts are usually the type that cause the severe pain with which many women associate ovarian cysts.
Other Types of Ovarian Cysts
There are a few other, less common, types of ovarian cysts that can be caused by other conditions such as pregnancy, endometriosis, hormonal issues, or some pelvic infections. These types of cysts include dermoids, endometriomas, and cystadenomas.
How do you know if you have an ovarian cyst?
As mentioned earlier, most ovarian cysts are small, have no symptoms, and go away on their own (these are referred to as “functional” ovarian cysts). Sometimes, however, if a cyst continues to grow, you may experience:
- Bloating, swelling, pain, or pressure in the abdominal area
- Pain during sex
- Painful bowel movements
If an ovarian cyst ruptures or begins twisting your ovary, your symptoms will be more severe and you should seek medical attention right away. These symptoms include:
- Sudden severe pelvic pain
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Do ovarian cysts cause complications?
Ovarian cysts are typically benign, with no lasting effects. Rarely, they may cause complications that require medical attention. Ruptured cysts can cause internal bleeding, severe pain, and put you at risk for life-threatening infection if not treated.
If a cyst continues growing and causes the ovary to twist (ovarian torsion), it can dangerously cut off the blood supply to your ovaries and lead to cell damage or death. Ovarian torsion usually requires a cyst to be surgically removed. Ovarian cysts can also, very rarely, be cancerous.
How are ovarian cysts treated?
If your doctor detects an ovarian cyst during a pelvic exam, they will likely diagnose you using ultrasound or other imaging tests. Since most cysts go away on their own and cause no symptoms, your doctor will likely just perform a follow-up ultrasound in a few weeks to monitor the size. If it continues to grow or you start experiencing symptoms, a small ovarian cyst can be removed via laparoscopic surgery—when your doctor makes a small incision on your abdomen and inserts a small instrument to remove it.
For larger cysts, you may need a laparotomy, which requires a larger incision and is usually followed by a biopsy to check for cancerous cells. Additionally, women who suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome, or another condition that causes them to produce ovarian cysts more frequently, may be prescribed birth control to prevent ovulation and resulting cyst development.
At South Avenue Women’s Services, our medical professionals provide routine gynecological and specialist services for any woman in need. We have the tools and expertise necessary to diagnose and treat ovarian cysts and other common conditions that require specialized well-woman care.
Give us a call at 585-271-3850 to speak with a team member and schedule an appointment today!