Ovaries are an important part of a woman's reproductive system. There are two ovaries situated on either side of the uterus. They produce eggs that pass down the Fallopian tube into the uterus. Here, the egg may be fertilized by a sperm. It is possible a small cyst develops in the ovary that may lead to irregular menstrual cycle. Let us learn more about these ovarian cysts from the following paragraphs.
What are Ovarian Cysts?
Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form in or on the ovary. Most of the cysts are harmless and do not cause any symptoms. However, at times they may lead to painful menstruation. Most of the cysts disappear on their own. They are very common during the childbearing years of a woman.
Causes of Ovarian Cysts
The causes of ovarian cysts depend on the type of cyst. Let us have a look at the types and understand the causes.
Functional Cysts: These are one of the most common cysts that form during ovulation. These cysts occur when the egg is not released from the sac or when the egg sac does not dissolve after the egg is released. When the normal egg follicle does not stop growing, it forms a functional cyst. There are types of functional cysts:
- Follicular cysts: These cysts are formed in the absence of ovulation or when a follicle collapses. This cyst can rupture at times and lead to a lot of pain. This pain occurs during ovulation or middle of menstruation.
- Corpus luteum cysts: This is a cyst that may be filled with fluid or blood. It rarely produces any symptoms and may suddenly rupture. Thus, causing internal bleeding as well as sharp pain.
Nonfunctional Cysts: Cysts that are not grouped under functional cysts are placed here. These cysts include some of the following:
- Polycystic ovaries: These cysts commonly called as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are formed when eggs fail to open.
- Endometriomas: When the tissue or endometrium lining the uterus starts growing on other organs including ovaries, leads to endometriomas. This is a very painful condition that causes fertility problems.
- Mature cystic teratomas: These are cysts that contain different types of body cells like teeth, bone, hair, etc. This happens as egg cells can develop into any type of cell. They usually disappear on their own when small in size.
- Cystadenomas: These cysts develop from the ovarian tissue and are filled with fluid.
Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts
Cysts are normally non-cancerous in nature and usually do not produce any symptoms. When they do lead to problems, the symptoms include:
- Constant or intermittent pain in the lower abdomen
- Irregular menstruation cycle that is either heavier or lighter than normal periods
- Severe pain when the cyst bursts
- The cysts may twist on the stalk of the ovary it is growing on. This causes blockage of blood supply and severe pain
- Loss of appetite
- Severe weight gain
- Painful sex
- Painful urination
Diagnosis of Ovarian Cysts
Ovarian cysts are usually detected by chance. They are observed during an abdominal examination or internal examination. Constant pain, heavy bleeding, etc. call for an ultrasound test. During this test, most of the cysts are detected.
Treatment for Ovarian Cysts
The treatment for ovarian cysts depends on the symptoms as well as patients age. The doctor may first wait and watch for a few months. The cysts may disappear on it's own with time. If it does not, the doctor may recommend birth control pills that reduce the occurrence of more cysts. Pain relievers may be offered to reduce the pain in the pelvic region. If the cysts are too large or continues to grow, the doctor may recommend cystectomy. In some cases, if the ovary has to be removed too, a procedure is carried out called oophorectomy.
Cysts cannot be prevented, but most cysts go away on their own and are non-cancerous in nature. They are very common in women of childbearing age. If you have any doubts, speak to a gynecologist today.
Date last updated: February 2, 2015