What Is an Ovarian Cyst?
An ovarian cyst is a pocket, filled with fluid or a semisolid material, that forms on or inside the ovaries.
Many women will have an ovarian cyst at some point during their lives. Most ovarian cysts are not a cause for concern.
One type of harmless cyst, called a functional cyst, occurs due to the normal function of the menstrual cycle.
These cysts tend to shrink away on their own, usually within 60 days.
Causes and Types of Ovarian Cysts
When cysts aren't caused by the normal function of the menstrual cycle, they may be one of the following types of cysts:
Dermoid cysts:These cysts form from cells that produce human eggs. They may contain tissue such as hair, skin, or teeth. They are rarely cancerous.
These cysts can grow so large that they cause your ovary to twist or move out of its usual position. This is called ovarian torsion.
Cystadenomas:These cysts develop from ovarian tissue and may be filled with a watery liquid or a mucousy material. They can grow to be large.
Endometriomas:These cysts are caused by the condition endometriosis, in which uterine cells grow outside your uterus and can form a growth on your ovary.
Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts
Smaller ovarian cysts tend to cause no symptoms.
Larger cysts can cause:
- Pelvic pain, or a dull ache in your lower back and thighs
- Pelvic pain before your menstrual cycle begins, or just before it ends
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Pressure on your bowels, or pain during bowel movements
- A feeling of fullness or heaviness in your lower abdomen
- The urge to urinate frequently
- Nausea, vomiting, or breast tenderness
Cysts that rupture (break open) can cause serious symptoms.
Typically, an ovarian cyst is found during a routine pelvic exam.
When a gynecologist suspects the presence of an ovarian cyst, he or she may request an ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create images of internal organs.
Treatment of Ovarian Cysts
Most functional ovarian cysts disappear within a few months without treatment.
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe a medication, such as birth control pills, to stop ovulation and prevent cysts from developing in the future.
In certain severe cases, surgery may be necessary to remove a cyst.
Video: Ovarian Cysts Risks
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