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Ovarian Cyst: Causes and Symptoms

Introduction

An ovarian cyst is a solid or a fluid-filled pocket in or on the surface of your ovary. Women have two ovaries, each of an almond shape and size on each side of the uterus. Eggs develop in these ovaries and are released during your monthly cycles.

Many women suffer from ovarian cyst at some point in time during their life. Most  ovarian cysts cause very little or no discomfort and usually  disappear in a few months without any treatment. However, when an ovarian cyst ruptures, it can lead to serious complications.

What are the types of ovarian cyst?

There are numerious types of ovarian cysts, like functional cyst, endometrioma cysts and dermoid cysts

Functional cysts: Most ovarian cysts develop because of your menstrual cycle (functional cysts). Functional cysts are the most common cyst type observed among women. Other types of cysts are very less common. Usually, functional cysts are harmless, rarely cause pain and often fade away on their own within two or three menstrual cycles.

Ovaries generally grow cyst-like structures called follicles each month. If a normal monthly follicle gets growing, it is known as a functional cyst. There are two types of functional cysts:

  • Follicular cyst – Close to the midpoint of the menstrual cycle, an egg bursts out of its follicle and travels down your fallopian tube. A follicular cyst begins when the follicle does not rupture or release its egg, but continues to grow.
  • Corpus luteum cyst – When the follicle releases an egg, it begins to produce progesterone and estrogen for conception, which is called corpus luteum. Sometimes fluid accumulates in this follicle that leads to the development of a cyst.

Complications of Ovarian Cysts

Large ovarian cysts can lead to some symptoms such as:

  • Bloating
  • Fullness
  • Feeling heavy in abdomen
  • Pelvic pain (ache in the lower abdomen)

Complications

Few women develop less common types of cysts that a doctor may find during pelvic examination. Cystic ovarian masses which develop post-menopause may turn out to be malignant (cancerous). That is why it is important for women to have regular pelvic exams.

Some infrequent complications linked to ovarian cysts include:

  • Ovarian torsion: Cysts that enlarge may cause the ovary to move, which increases the chances of painful twisting of the ovary. This is called ovarian torsion. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and a sudden onset of severe pelvic pain. Ovarian torsion can also stop or reduce flow of blood to the ovaries.
  • Rupture. A cyst that ruptures may lead to internal bleeding and severe pain. The larger the cyst, the higher the risk of rupture. Vigorous activity that affects pelvis, like vaginal intercourse, also raises the risk.

When to see the doctor

To protect your health, you need to get your pelvic examination on a regular basis. If you observe any of the symptoms of ovarian cysts such as pelvic pain, bloating etc , you need to seek immediate medical attention.

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What are the risk factors for  ovarian cyst?

  • Pregnancy – Occasionally, the cyst that is formed at the time of ovulation stays on the ovary throughout the pregnancy period.
  • Hormonal changes – Fertility drugs that cause you to ovulate can lead to cysts .
  • The previous occurrence of ovarian cyst – If you had ovarian cyst earlier, then you are likely to get them again 
  • Endometriosis – This causes the uterine endometrial cells to grow outside the uterus. Some of these tissues can  attach to the ovary and grow, forming a cyst.
  • Pelvic infection – If the pelvic infection spreads to the ovaries, it can cause ovarian cyst.

What are the risk factors that develop ovarian cyst?

Some of the prominent risk factors that put you at a higher risk of developing an ovarian cyst are as follows:

  • Age – Women above the age of 50 years are at a higher risk of developing an ovarian cyst.
  • Pregnancy – cysts that are formed during ovulation stay during the complete pregnancy.
  • Pelvic infection – If the infection spreads to the ovaries, then there is a high risk of being diagnosed with an ovarian cyst.
  • Family history of ovarian cyst – Women with a hereditary issue of ovarian cysts are at a higher risk .
  • Hormonal problems – Consumption of fertility drugs can put a woman at risk of developing an ovarian cyst.
  • Obesity Overweight women are also at risk of developing ovarian cyst 
  • Endometriosis – Women suffering from endometriosis are also at a higher risk of developing an ovarian cyst

How is the ovarian cyst treated?

The treatment of an ovarian cyst depends on the age, size of the cyst and any of the symptoms of ovarian cyst. Thus, for the treatment of an ovarian cyst, the doctors may suggest:

  • Medication – Hormonal contraceptives maybe given  to keep the ovarian cysts from recurring. 
  • Wait and watch – You can wait and observe the changes if any as the cyst may go after a few months. This is an option only when the healthcare practitioner observes no symptoms and the ultrasound shows the result of the cyst to be small and fluid-filled. However, the doctor may recommend for a follow-up at  regular intervals to observe the changes in the size of the cyst.
  • Surgery –Doctors would recommend surgery only when the size of the cyst is large, the cyst causes pain, and it tends to grow continuously for two to three menstrual cycles. In some cases, the cyst can be removed without removing the ovary; however, in some cases, affected ovaries have to be removed.

How can an ovarian cyst be prevented?

Though there is no way to prevent an ovarian cyst,  annual checks help to diagnose the changes in ovaries as soon as possible. Also, if you notice any change in the monthly cycle that includes unusual menstrual symptoms for more than a few cycles, it is important to see a doctor .

Conclusion

Most ovarian cysts cause very little or no discomfort and disappear in a few months without any treatment. The treatment of an ovarian cyst depends on the age, size of the cyst and if you notice any of the symptoms of ovarian cyst.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the tests prescribed by the doctors for the diagnosis of ovarian cyst?

The possible tests prescribed by the healthcare professionals for the diagnosis of an ovarian cyst are pelvic ultrasound, laparoscopy, hormone  tests, and CA 125 blood test.

How would healthcare professionals decide on the treatment of ovarian cyst?

Depending on its form that is solid, fluid-filled or mixed and its size as well as symptoms , the healthcare professionals would recommend the tests or the treatment of ovarian cyst.

Which healthcare specialists help to treat the ovarian cyst?

A specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology would help and guide for the treatment of ovarian cyst.

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