Ovarian cysts are common in many women, and while most won’t cause any major issues, it’s important to be aware of the frequent signs and symptoms. If you have any questions or concerns, it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with your gynecologist in order to get your questions answered and ensure your peace of mind.
What are ovarian cysts?
Women have two ovaries that are approximately the size of an almond, found on either side of the uterus. Ovarian cysts are sacs filled with fluid that are found in an ovary or growing on its surface.
Plenty of women have ovarian cysts at some point in their lives. Most ovarian cysts are harmless and don’t cause pain or discomfort. The majority of ovarian cysts disappear without any need for treatment within several months.
However, some ovarian cysts, particularly those that might have ruptured, can result in serious symptoms and health hazards. Make sure that you are taking care of your health by attending regular pelvic exams and educating yourself on symptoms that may require a visit to your provider.
While smaller, less harmful cysts won’t cause symptoms and generally disappear on their own, look out for the following symptoms that might indicate you have a larger ovarian cyst:
- Painful intercourse
- Pain in the lower back/thighs
- Tenderness in the breasts
- Pelvic pain before or during the menstrual cycle
- Nausea and vomiting
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, particularly if they interfere with your daily life, it’s time to visit your gynecologist who can advise on the next steps.
Sometimes complications may arise from ovarian cysts. Make sure you seek urgent medical care if you develop any of these severe symptoms:
- Faintness/ dizziness
- Sharp pelvic pain
- Rapid breathing
However, before you get worried about developing a harmful ovarian cyst, it’s a good idea to understand them a bit more and why they occur.
What causes ovarian cysts?
In the majority of cases, ovarian cysts develop because of your menstrual cycle—these are known as functional cysts.
Ovaries grow cyst-like structures known as follicles each month. Follicles are responsible for producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone and releasing an egg during ovulation.
When a regular monthly follicle continues to grow, it’s known as a functional cyst. There are two types of functional cysts:
1. Follicular cyst
A follicular cyst develops at the midpoint of your menstrual when a follicle doesn’t rupture or release an egg but continues to grow instead.
2. Corpus luteum cyst
Now known as the corpus luteum, at the same time as releasing an egg, a follicle begins producing estrogen and progesterone for conception. Sometimes an accumulation of fluid inside of the follicle causes the corpus luteum to develop into a cyst.
It’s good to remember that while the word cyst has a whole host of negative connotations, functional cysts are generally harmless, don’t cause pain, and generally disappear after several months on their own without any intervention.
Other types of cysts
Different to common functional cysts, these kinds of cysts do carry more risk and are more likely to generate pain and discomfort.
Cystadenomas: Cystadenomas cysts grow on the surface of an ovary and are sometimes filled with a watery mucus.
Dermoid cysts: Dermoid cysts, sometimes known as teratomas, can contain tissue-like skin, hair, or even teeth. They form embryonic cells and are fortunately rarely cancerous.
Endometriomas: Endometriomas grow as a result of a condition when uterine endometrial cells grow outside of the uterus (known as endometriosis). These tissues sometimes attach to the ovary and form a cyst-like growth.
It’s always a good idea to be aware of other types of cysts that can develop and lead to complications such as cystadenomas and dermoid cysts which can become large and result in the ovary moving out of position.
Complications associated with ovarian cysts
While complications are rare, you should know about some infrequent complications.
Ovarian cysts that rupture can result in severe pain and internal bleeding. The larger the cyst grows, the higher the risk of a rupture. Vaginal intercourse and any other pelvic activity can also increase the risk of cyst rupture.
Ovarian cysts that enlarge can cause the ovary to move. This increases the risk of your ovary becoming twisted, known as ovarian torsion, which can decrease or stop blood flow to the ovary. If you have any symptoms such as severe pelvic pain, nausea and vomiting, you should see a medical professional immediately.
How do I prevent ovarian cysts?
While it’s impossible to prevent ovarian cysts, you can ensure that you get a diagnosis as soon as possible.
Stay alert to any changes in your monthly cycle, including any abnormal menstrual symptoms, particularly if they persist for a few cycles. Make sure to talk to your doctor about any changes that worry you.
Schedule regular pelvic exams with Metro OBGYN
Whatever your age, it’s important that you visit your gynecologist for regular pelvic exams. This way, if you do have any cysts or pelvic issues, your gynecologist can catch them in the early stages of development before any complications arise.
If you do not have a current provider, you can make an appointment online with one of our medical professionals who would be happy to address any concerns that you may have.