Ovarian Cysts Quick Overview
- Ovarian cysts are fairly common. They are
fluid-filled sacs that form in or on a woman's ovaries.
- Symptoms of ovarian cysts depend
to a large extent on the size of the cyst. Many ovarian cysts produce no
symptoms. Large or ruptured ovarian cysts can cause symptoms including pain,
pelvic pressure or discomfort.
- Vaginal (pelvic) ultrasound can be
used to reveal the presence of ovarian cysts.
- Ovarian cysts can vary in size.
Many are very small, while cysts associated with ovarian tumors may be 12
inches or more in diameter.
- In some cases ovarian cysts can
cause problems with menstrual periods such as abnormal or
irregular bleeding. Spotting (light bleeding) from the vagina can also occur due to
some ovarian cysts.
- Very rarely, cysts on the ovaries
are part of ovarian cancers. Benign functional ovarian cysts do not cause
cancer, and the vast majority of ovarian cysts are benign.
- Some types of ovarian cysts
(polycystic ovary syndrome and cysts related to endometriosis) may make it
more difficult for a woman to get pregnant.
- Simple ovarian cysts (functional
cysts) can sometimes be seen during pregnancy. Dermoid cysts and other types
of cysts can also occur in pregnant women.
- The sudden onset of severe pain is
the characteristic symptom of a ruptured (burst) ovarian cyst.
- Treatment of ruptured ovarian
cysts involves medications for pain control. Ruptured dermoid cysts may
require surgery due to irritation of the internal organs from the contents
of the cyst.
- Larger cysts may require surgery
to remove the cyst or a biopsy to rule out cancer.
What Are Ovarian Cysts?
Ovarian cysts are small fluid-filled sacs that develop in a woman's ovaries. Most cysts are harmless, but some may cause problems such as rupture, bleeding, or pain. Moreover, surgery may be required in certain situations to remove the cyst(s). It is important to understand the function of the ovaries and how these cysts develop.
What are the ovaries and what is their function?
Women normally have two ovaries that store and release eggs. Each ovary is about the size of a walnut, and one ovary is located on each side of the uterus. One ovary releases an egg each month, and this process is called ovulation. Ovulation occurs in roughly the middle of a woman's monthly menstrual cycle. The egg is enclosed in a sac called a follicle. An egg grows inside the ovary while estrogen (a hormone released by the ovary) prepares the uterus for a developing pregnancy. Estrogen causes the lining of the uterus to grow and thicken so as to prepare for implantation of the fertilized egg resulting in a pregnancy. This cycle occurs each month. If the egg is not fertilized, the contents of the uterus are then expelled resulting in the onset of a menstrual period. The first day of bleeding is considered the first day of the ensuing menstrual cycle.
Who Gets Ovarian Cysts?
Ovarian cysts are common and affect women of all ages. The vast majority of ovarian cysts are functional (i.e. they are a by-product of hormonal fluctuations that occur during a menstrual cycle). Although they may become problematic they do not indicate a specific disease process. Most ovarian cysts are not cancerous (benign), and many disappear on their own without treatment over the course of several weeks. While malignant cysts may be found in conjunction with ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts are typically not cancerous. Ovarian cysts most commonly occur during a woman's childbearing years.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/30/2017
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