Symptoms and Signs of Ovarian Cysts

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/4/2021

Doctor's Notes on Ovarian Cysts

An ovarian cyst is an enclosed sac-like structure filled with fluid or semi-solid material located in the ovary. Ovarian cysts are very common and can arise due to a number of causes. Causes of ovarian cysts include

Most ovarian cysts are benign (not cancerous), but in some cases, ovarian cancers may be associated with cysts.

Ovarian cysts do not always cause signs or symptoms. Signs and symptoms are more common with larger cysts. Symptoms of an ovarian cyst can include

  • pain in the abdomen,
  • pelvis, or low back,
  • bloating, or increased abdominal girth.

Associated symptoms with larger cysts can include pain during sexual intercourse difficulty with bowel movements, having painful bowel movements, or nausea and vomiting.

What Is the Treatment for Ovarian Cysts?

Ovarian cysts do not always require specific treatment, particularly if they are not causing symptoms. Often a pelvic ultrasound will be repeated after a period of months to see if the cyst has resolved.

  • In premenopausal women, ovarian cysts often resolve on their own within one to two months, without treatment.
  • In postmenopausal women, ovarian cysts are less likely to resolve.
  • Treatment may involve other tests (as described previously) to determine the likelihood that cancer is present.
  • Larger cysts may require surgery to remove the cyst or to take a tissue sample (biopsy) to rule out cancer.
  • A ruptured ovarian cyst is typically treated with pain medications and does not require surgery.
  • Ruptured dermoid cysts may require surgery because the contents of these cysts are very irritating to the internal organs.
  • Moreover, surgery may be necessary for ruptures of cysts that cause internal bleeding or are suspicious for cancer.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.