Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs or pockets within or on the surface of an ovary. Women have two ovaries — each about the size and shape of an almond — located on each side of the uterus. Eggs (ova) develop and mature in the ovaries and are released in monthly cycles during your childbearing years.
Many women have ovarian cysts at some time during their lives. Most ovarian cysts present little or no discomfort and are harmless. The majority of ovarian cysts disappear without treatment within a few months.
However, ovarian cysts — especially those that have ruptured — sometimes produce serious symptoms. The best ways to protect your health are to know the symptoms that may signal a more significant problem, and to schedule regular pelvic examinations.
Most cysts don't cause any symptoms and go away on their own. A large ovarian cyst can cause abdominal discomfort. If a large cyst presses on your bladder, you may feel the need to urinate more frequently because bladder capacity is reduced.
The symptoms of ovarian cysts, if present, may include:
When to see a doctor
These signs and symptoms — or those of shock, such as cold, clammy skin, rapid breathing, and lightheadedness or weakness — indicate an emergency and mean that you need to see a doctor right away.
A woman has two ovaries, one on each side of her uterus. An ovary is about the size and shape of an almond. ...
Most ovarian cysts start during the normal function of your menstrual cycle. These are known as functional cysts. Other types of cysts are much less common.
Functional cysts are usually harmless, rarely cause pain, and often disappear on their own within two or three menstrual cycles.
Dermoid cysts and cystadenomas can become large, causing the ovary to move out of its usual position in the pelvis. This increases the chance of painful twisting of your ovary, called ovarian torsion.
Follicular ovarian cyst
A follicular cyst occurs when the follicle of the ovary doesn't rupture or release its egg. Instead, it grows until it becomes a cyst. ...
Corpus luteum ovarian cyst
Abnormal changes in the follicle of the ovary after an egg has been released can cause the egg's escape opening to seal off. Fluid accumulates inside the follicle, and a corpus luteum cyst develops....
Some women develop less common types of cysts that may not produce symptoms, but that your doctor may find during a pelvic examination. Cystic ovarian masses that develop after menopause may be cancerous (malignant). These factors make regular pelvic examinations important.
Infrequent complications associated with ovarian cysts include:
Preparing for your appointment
Your first appointment will likely be with either your primary care provider or a doctor who specializes in conditions that affect women (gynecologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and it can be difficult to remember everything you want to discuss, it's a good idea to prepare in advance of your appointment.
What you can do
Some basic questions to ask include:
Make sure that you understand completely everything that your doctor tells you. Don't hesitate to ask your doctor to repeat information or to ask follow-up questions for clarification.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
A cyst on your ovary may be found during a pelvic exam. If a cyst is suspected, doctors often advise further testing to determine its type and whether you need treatment.
Typically, doctors address several questions to determine a diagnosis and to aid in management decisions:
To identify the type of cyst, your doctor may perform the following procedures:
Treatments and drugs
Treatment depends on your age, the type and size of your cyst, and your symptoms. Your doctor may suggest:
Although there's no definite way to prevent the growth of ovarian cysts, regular pelvic examinations are a way to help ensure that changes in your ovaries are diagnosed as early as possible. In addition, be alert to changes in your monthly cycle, including symptoms that may accompany menstruation that aren't typical for you or that persist over more than a few cycles. Talk with your doctor about any changes that concern you.
Last Updated: 2011-07-29
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