What You Need to Know
What is an ovarian cyst?
An ovarian cyst is a fluid filled sac arising from the ovary. They can vary in size and number. Ovarian cysts may occur in women of all ages at any point in their lives. Most cysts are harmless, asymptomatic and may resolve on their own.
Am I at risk of ovarian cysts?
An ovarian cyst is a common condition in women. Most women develop ovarian cysts but are not aware of it because cysts usually cause little to no discomfort when small. In addition, most of these cysts resolve within weeks or months without any ovarian cyst treatment.
What’s the difference between functional and pathological cysts?
Follicular cysts and corpus luteum cysts belong to a group called functional cysts. A follicular cyst develops when the follicle which holds an egg does not rupture and release the egg (anovulation). The follicle grows instead to form a cyst. A corpus luteum cyst develops when the egg is released followed by bleeding into the follicle creating a cyst. Apart from how they are formed during a menstrual cycle, functional cysts are usually benign and don’t present any outward symptoms or cause any pain. Functional cysts normally resolve on their own within two to three menstrual cycles.
On the other hand, there are other types of ovarian cysts whose occurrence are not associated with the menstrual cycle. Known as pathological cysts, they include dermoid cysts, cystadenomas and endometriomas. Dermoid cysts of the ovaries contain tissues such as hair, skin and teeth because they form from embryonic cells. Cystadenomas grow on the surface of ovaries and contain fluid. Endometriomas are caused by endometriosis—a condition where tissues cells that line the inside of the womb (endometrium) grow on the outside of the uterus. Pathological cysts can become so big that complications like severe pain due to ovarian torsion (twisting) and rupture of cysts may occur.
Can ovarian cysts cause complications?
Yes. Although ovarian cysts are generally harmless and painless, some may grow so big as to result in serious complications. Large ovarian cysts may cause the ovary to shift in position and twist, resulting in a condition known as ovarian torsion. Some symptoms of ovarian torsion include pain resulting from decreased blood flow to the ovaries. If not surgically corrected in time, the ovary may necrose and require removal. When large ovarian cysts burst, known as a rupture, it results in internal bleeding and severe pain.
Another related condition polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which affects about 27% of women, is the result of the ovaries containing a huge number of tiny cysts. PCOS is commonly associated with hormonal imbalance as well as the inability to ovulate and therefore infertility.
Some ovarian cyst may become cancerous and these tend to occur in older women most often after menopause, although it can occur at any age too.