What are ovarian cysts?

An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac or pocket that develops in an ovary and usually disappears after ovulation. Many menstruating women have ovarian cysts at some point in their lives. Most ovarian cysts present little to no discomfort and are harmless. The majority of these disappear without treatment within a few months.

However, for some, ovarian cysts- especially those that have ruptured- can cause serious symptoms.

Ovarian Cyst Types And Treatment

Types of Ovarian Cysts

Follicular Cyst: Usually, once every month, a fluid-filled sac or ‘follicle’ develops and contains an egg within it. During ovulation, this egg is released from the sac into the ovary so that it can travel through the fallopian tube to the uterus. The “fluid-filled” sack is 3 cm across and on an ultrasound report, may be called a cyst, but it is normal.

Sometimes, the cyst can grow larger than the normal size. If the sac that holds the egg does not break to release it, it can grow to 10 cm across. Most follicular cysts disappear within 2 to 8 weeks and do not cause any pain. Sometimes large cysts can cause pain and/or pressure in the lower belly and usually takes longer to resolve.

Corpus Luteum Cyst: A corpus luteum cyst is normal and usually forms every month after ovulation. When a follicle releases the egg, it begins producing estrogen and progesterone for conception. It is now called the corpus luteum and mostly disappears by itself in a few weeks but sometimes can take up to three months to go away. It can grow 3-4 inches across and may bleed inside the cyst or the belly and cause pain.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome means many cysts in the ovary. The term “polycystic” means that there are a lot of tiny cysts inside the ovaries. This kind of ovarian cyst is not harmful and does not have to be removed. However, in some cases, hormonal imbalances can cause changes in your body’s ability to release an egg. It can also lead to irregular periods, ovarian cysts, trouble getting pregnant, and other symptoms.

Risk Factors of Ovarian Cysts

The risk of developing an ovarian cyst is amplified by:

  • Hormonal problems: this includes taking the fertility drug clomiphene, which causes one to ovulate.
  • Endometriosis: Endometriosis causes uterine endometrial cells to grow outside the uterus. Some of the tissue can attach to the ovary and form a growth.
  • Pregnancy: Sometimes, the cyst that forms when one ovulates can stay on the ovary throughout the pregnancy.
  • Severe pelvic infection: If a pelvic infection spreads to the ovaries, it can result in cysts.
  • A previous ovarian cyst.

Ovarian Cyst Diagnosis: What Happens If I Have an Ovarian Cyst? 

Since most ovarian cysts usually go away on their own, you do not have to worry if you have one. Your Gynaecologist will check for abdominal or belly pain. Mid pain in your belly can last for many weeks, but if you have moderate to severe menstrual cramps pain that hinders your daily movement, like walking, or cause you to vomit or pass out, you may need admission and treatment in a hospital. You might also be recommended not to exercise or participate in sports until the cyst becomes small or completely goes away.

Can Ovarian Cysts be Dangerous? 

As mentioned, ovarian cysts usually are not dangerous, but occasionally they may cause the ovary to twist on its root. This is called torsion, which blocks the blood from going to the ovary. It can cause severe abdominal pain, and one can feel like throwing up or passing out.

It is very rare that an ovarian cyst does not go away on its own and has to be removed.

Can Ovarian Cysts be Prevented?

Regular examinations with your gynaecologist especially if having symptoms as described with hormonal imbalance alongside pelvic examinations help ensure that your ovarian cyst diagnosis is done early on. Be alert to any changes in your monthly cycle, especially symptoms that last for more than a few cycles.