Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs formed on the ovaries. Women have two ovaries that are the size of an almond that are located on either side of the uterus. Ovarian cysts are not usually cancerous and diagnosed through ultrasound or other imaging tests to determine the size. Most ovarian cysts present little or no discomfort and are harmless unless it ruptures and causes serious symptoms and the treatment depends on the cause of the cyst.
What are the symptoms of ovarian cysts?
Most cysts do not cause any serious symptoms and usually go away on their own. However, large cysts can cause the following symptoms:
- Pelvic pain in the lower abdomen on the side of the cyst
- Fullness or heaviness in your abdomen
- Feeling an urge to have a bowel movement or having difficult, painful bowel movements
What are the causes of ovarian cysts?
Most ovarian cysts develop as a result a female’s menstrual cycle. Your ovaries grow cyst-like structures which are also known as follicles. Follicles produce estrogen and progesterone and release an egg each month during ovulation. If a normal monthly follicle keeps growing, it’s known as a functional cyst. There are two common functional cysts namely:
Follicular cyst – This occurs around the midpoint of your menstrual cycle. An egg is released from the follicle and travels down through to the fallopian tube. A follicular cyst begins when the follicle does not rupture nor when an egg is released but it will continue to grow.
Corpus luteum cyst – When a follicle releases an egg, it produces estrogen and progesterone for conception. The follicle is now called the corpus luteum. Sometimes, fluid piles up inside the follicle which causes the corpus luteum to grow into a cyst.
What are the potential risk factors of ovarian cysts?
Your risk of developing an ovarian cyst is increased by:
- Hormonal problems – this includes taking any form of fertility drugs that are used to help you ovulate.
- Pregnancy – The cysts that form during ovulation may stay on your ovaries throughout your pregnancy.
- Endometriosis – This causes uterine endometrial cells to grow outside your uterus, where some of the tissue can be attached to your ovary and form a growth.
- A severe pelvic infection – If this infection spreads to your ovaries, it can cause cysts.
- A previous ovarian cyst – If you’ve had one, the chances are highly likely that you will develop more cysts.
There is no cure for ovarian cysts, but it would be highly recommended to have regular pelvic exams to ensure that the changes in your ovaries are diagnosed as early as possible.