The ovaries are located in the lower abdomen on both sides of the uterus and they are part of the female reproductive system.
Women have two ovaries which produce eggs, and the hormones progesterone and estrogen. Sometimes, cyst, a fluid-filled sac, develops on one of the ovaries. During their life, women will develop at least one cyst. Usually, cysts cause no symptoms and they are painless.
There are many types of ovarian cysts, such as endometrioma cysts and dermoid cysts. However, the most common type of cyst is functional cyst. The two types of functional cysts are corpus luteum and follicle cysts.
During a menstrual cycle, an egg grows in a sac, which is better known as a follicle and it’s located inside the ovaries. In majority of cases, this sac or follicle breaks open and releases an egg. However, if that doesn’t happen, the fluid inside the sac becomes a cyst on the ovary.
After releasing an egg, follicle sacs usually dissolve. However, it this doesn’t happen and the opening of the follicle seals, additional fluid may develop inside the sac and this cause accumulation of fluid which can cause a cyst, known as corpus luteum cyst. Other ovarian cyst’s types are: endometriomas, cystadenomas and dermoid cysts.
Tissues which usually grow inside the uterus may develop outside the uterus and attach to the ovaries, resulting in an endometriomas cyst. Growth of non-cancerous which may develop on the outer surface of ovaries is called cystadenomas. Sac-like growths on the ovaries which has fat, hair or other tissue is called dermoid cysts.
Many ovarian cysts are resolved without women ever realize they had it, and they are never noticed. However, if cyst causes symptoms, pain in the pelvis or abdomen is the most common one. The pain is caused from rapid growth and stretching, twisting of the cyst around its blood supply, rupture of the cyst, or bleeding into the cyst.
In case the cyst reaches a large size, some additional symptoms can arise as a result of distortion or pressure of adjacent anatomical structures. These symptoms may include bloating or abdominal fullness, feeling full after eating only a small amount, indigestion, felling an urge to defecate, urinary urgency, pain with sexual intercourse, or having difficult bowel movements.
Some women may develop less common types of cysts which don’t produce symptoms, but during a pelvic exam a doctor may find it. Cystic ovarian masses which are developed after woman’s menopause may be cancerous. Therefore, it is important to have regular exams of pelvic.
Less frequent complications which are associated with ovarian cysts are rupture and ovarian torsion. A cyst which ruptures can cause internal bleeding and severe pain. Cysts which are big can cause the ovary to move out of it normal position in the pelvis, and this increases the chance of ovarian torsion, a painful twisting of your ovary.
During a routine pelvic examination, your doctor can detect an ovarian cyst. The doctor can notice welling on one of your ovaries, and send you to an ultrasound to confirm that you have a cyst. An ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves in order to create an image of your internal organs. Ultrasound helps determine the location, shape, size, and composition of a cyst.
Other imaging tools which can diagnose ovarian cysts are CT scan and MRI. CT scan creates cross-sectional image of internal organs and MRI uses magnetic fields in order to produce in-depth images of your internal organs. Your doctor may not immediately suggest a treatment plan, because the majority of cysts disappear after several weeks or months. Instead, your doctor may repeat the ultrasound in a several weeks or months to check if your condition has changed.
Your doctor will request additional tests in order to determine other causes of your symptoms, if there are no changes in your condition or if the cyst grows bigger. This can include hormone level test and pregnancy test. Hormone level test checks for hormone-related issues, like too much progesterone or estrogen, and pregnancy test determines whether or not you are pregnant.
Treatment depends on the type and size of your cyst, your age, and your symptoms. Your doctor can suggest one of the following:
Birth control pills – The doctor can recommend birth control pills in order to reduce the chance of development of new cysts in your future menstrual cycles. Oral contraceptives can significantly reduce your risk of ovarian cancer, and the risk will decrease the longer you take the pills.
Watchful waiting – You can wait for several months in order to be re-examined and see if the cyst goes away on its own. Regardless of your age, this is usually an option if an ultrasound shows you have a small, fluid-filled cyst and have no symptoms. Your doctor will suggest that you get pelvic ultrasounds at periodic intervals in order to see if the cyst has changes in size.
Surgery – If the cyst is large, it’s growing, doesn’t look like a functional cyst, or persists through two or three menstrual cycles, your doctor may recommend removal. Cysts which cause pain or any other symptom may be removed.
There is no prevention for ovarian cyst. However, regular gynecological examinations can detect ovarian cysts on time. Benign ovarian cysts are not cancerous. Symptoms of ovarian cancer often mimic ovarian cyst’s symptoms. Therefore, it is important to have routine examinations by your doctor.
If you feel some of the following symptoms, make sure to visit your doctor. Symptoms may include ongoing pelvic pain, unexplained weight loss, changes in your menstrual cycle, abdominal fullness, or loss of appetite.