Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled pouches or pockets in an ovary or on its surface. Women have two ovaries on each side of the uterus – each in the size and shape of an almond. Eggs (ovules) that develop and mature in the ovaries are released in monthly cycles during the baby's birth.
Many women eventually have ovarian cysts. Most ovarian cysts have little or no discomfort and are harmless. The majority disappears without treatment within a few months.
However, ovarian cysts – especially those that are torn – can cause severe symptoms. To protect your health, you should regularly perform pelvic examinations and know the symptoms that may indicate a potentially serious problem.
Most cysts cause no symptoms and disappear on their own. However, a large ovarian cyst may cause:
- pelvic pain – a dull or severe pain in the lower abdomen on the side of the cyst
- fullness or heaviness in the abdomen
When to see? Doctor
See a doctor immediately if you have the following:
- Sudden, severe abdominal or pelvic pain
- Pain in fever or vomiting
If you have these signs and symptoms or are suffering from shock – cold , clammy skin; fast breathing; and drowsiness or weakness – seek medical attention immediately.
Most ovarian cysts develop as a result of your menstrual cycle (functional cysts). Other types of cysts are much rarer.
Their ovaries usually form cystlike structures called follicles every month. Follicles produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone and release an egg during ovulation.
When a normal monthly follicle continues to grow, it is known as a functional cyst. There are two types of functional cysts:
- Follicular cyst. Around the middle of your menstrual cycle, an egg bursts out of its follicle and runs down the fallopian tube. A follicular cyst starts when the follicle does not break or release its egg, but continues to grow.
- Corpus luteum cyst. When a follicle releases its egg, it begins to produce estrogen and progesterone for conception. This follicle is now called the corpus luteum. Sometimes fluid accumulates in the follicle, causing the corpus luteum to grow into a cyst.
Functional cysts are usually harmless, rarely cause pain, and often disappear by themselves within two or three menstrual cycles.
Other Cysts  Types of cysts that are not related to the normal function of your menstrual cycle include:  dermoid cysts. Also called teratomas, these tissues may contain, for. As hair, skin or teeth, as they form from embryonic cells. They are rarely cancerous.
Dermoid cysts and cystadenomas can become large, causing the ovary to move out of position. This increases the likelihood of painful ovarian rotation, called ovarian torsion. Ovarian torsion can also cause blood flow to the ovary to decrease or stop.
Your risk of developing an ovarian cyst is increased by:
- Hormonal problems. This includes taking the fertility drug Clomiphene (Clomid), which is used to cause ovulation.
- pregnancy. Occasionally cyst formation during ovulation occurs during pregnancy.
- endometriosis. This disease causes uterine endometrial cells to grow outside the uterus. Part of the tissue can attach to your ovary and grow.
- A severe pelvic infection. If the infection spreads to the ovaries, it can cause cysts.
- An earlier ovarian cyst. If you had one, you probably develop more.
Some women have less common cysts that a doctor finds in a pelvic exam. Cystic ovarian masses that develop after menopause can be cancerous (malignant). Therefore, it is important to perform regular pelvic examinations.
The rare complications of ovarian cysts include:
- ovarian torsion. Cysts that enlarge can cause the ovary to move, increasing the risk of painful twisting of your ovary (ovarian torsion). The symptoms may include abruptly severe pelvic pain, nausea and vomiting. Ovarian torsion can also reduce or stop blood flow to the ovaries.
- rupture. A cyst that bursts can cause severe pain and internal bleeding. The larger the cyst, the greater the risk of fracture. Strong activities that affect the pelvis, such as As vaginal communication, also increase the risk.
In a pelvic exam, a cyst can be found on the ovary. Depending on their size and whether they are fluid-filled, solid or mixed, your doctor will likely recommend tests to determine the type and determine if you need treatment. Possible tests include:
Pregnancy Test A positive test may indicate that you have a corpus luteum cyst.
pelvic ultrasound. A wand-like device (transducer) sends and receives high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to create a picture of your uterus and ovaries on a video screen. Your doctor analyzes the image to confirm the presence of a cyst and helps determine the location and determine if it is solid, filled with fluid, or mixed.
laparoscopy. Using a laparoscope – a slender, illuminated instrument that is inserted into your abdomen through a small incision – your doctor can see your ovaries and remove the ovarian cyst. This is a surgical procedure that requires anesthesia.
CA 125 blood test. Blood levels of a protein called cancer antigen 125 (CA 125) are often elevated in women with ovarian cancer. If your cyst is partially solid and you are at high risk for ovarian cancer, your doctor may order this test.
Increased CA 125 levels may also occur in non-cancerous diseases such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
The 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 re-examine if the cyst dies off within months. This is usually an option – regardless of your age – if you have no symptoms and an ultrasound scan shows you have a simple, small, fluid-filled cyst.
Your doctor will probably recommend that you have a pelvic ultrasound check at regular intervals to see if your cyst is changing in size.
medications. Your doctor may recommend hormonal contraceptives, such as birth control pills, to prevent the recurrence of ovarian cysts. However, birth control pills do not shrink an existing cyst.
surgery. Your doctor suggests removing a cyst that is large, does not look like a functional cyst, grows, passes through two or three menstrual bleeding cycles or causes pain.
Some cysts can be removed without removing the ovary (ovarian cystectomy). In some cases, your doctor may suggest removing the affected ovary and leaving the other intact (oophorectomy).
If a cystic mass is cancerous, your doctor will probably refer you to a gynecological cancer specialist. It may be necessary to remove the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes (total hysterectomy) and possibly chemotherapy or radiation. Your doctor may also recommend surgery if an ovarian cyst develops after menopause.
Preparing for an appointment
You are likely to start with a family doctor or doctor who specializes in disorders affecting women (gynecologist)
What you can do
Make a list of:  Your symptoms Including those unrelated to the reason for appointment and when they started
If possible, bring a family member or friend with you to help you Remember the information you have received.
Questions that you should ask your doctor are:
- What is probably responsible for my symptoms?
- Which tests could I need?
- Will my cysts probably be alone or will I need a treatment?
- Do you have printing? What materials or brochures can I have? Which websites do you recommend?
Do not hesitate to ask other questions.
What You Can Expect From Your Doctor
Questions your doctor may ask are:
- How often do you have symptoms?
- How serious are your symptoms?
- Do your symptoms seem to interfere with your menstrual cycle?
- Does something improve your symptoms?
- Does something exacerbate your symptoms?
Although there is no way to prevent ovarian cysts, regular pelvic examinations ensure that ovarian changes are diagnosed as early as possible. Watch for changes in your monthly cycle, including unusual menstrual symptoms, especially those that persist for more than a few cycles. Talk to your doctor about changes that affect you.
Release date: 2000-08-17