Patient Education

Ovarian Cysts

Ovarian cysts are one of the most common complaints from women of childbearing age. These painful afflictions can range anywhere from being a mild annoyance to a serious problem. This wide range of possible degrees of severity can oftentimes make it difficult for women to take the appropriate action for their type of cysts and to find suitable information that applies to them. This informational page is meant to answer your questions about ovarian cysts, whether big or small, and to help you decide what is right for your condition. 

WHAT DO OVARIES DO?

Ovaries are the two small, walnut-sized organs that are located on either side of your uterus. Every month during your menstrual cycle, one of your two ovaries produces an egg, which grows inside a small cyst inside your ovary. On the 14th day of your cycle, hormones signal that this egg should be released to be fertilized. This process is called ovulation, and allows for the possibility of a pregnancy if the egg is fertilized. 

WHAT ARE OVARIAN CYSTS, AND HOW DO THEY FORM?

Ovarian cysts are amounts of fluid surrounded by sac, which oftentimes grow inside your ovaries. Ovarian cysts can cause severe abdominal pain and even bleeding when they burst. These cysts can range anywhere from being the size of a pea to the size of an orange. Most cysts are minor and not life threatening, aside from causing a fair amount of pain. However, some larger cysts can be dangerous, as they may be malignant (cancerous). This is why all ovarian cysts should be checked out by your doctor. 

There are several different types of ovarian cysts that are categorized by your doctor: 

  • Functional cysts: These are the most common types of cysts. There are two different types of functional cysts- follicle and corpus luteum. Both types of functional cysts develop from tissues during the menstrual cycle. Usually functional cysts are very minor and have no symptoms and they disappear within a few months. 
  • Dermoid cysts: These are made up of different kinds of bodily tissues such as hair, fat, skin, and teeth. They are usually small and asymptomatic, but they can sometimes become very large and painful. 
  • Cystadenomas: They are formed on the outside of the ovary. Cystadenomas have the possibility to become quite large and painful, oftentimes interfering with the functions of other organs. However, usually they remain benign. 
  • Endometriomas: They are usually caused by sudden change in hormones, resulting in endometrial tissue building up in the ovary. They can become quite large and very painful. 

 

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF OVARIAN CYSTS?

Although the majority of ovarian cysts are small and do not end up causing problems, others can be quite painful. They may cause a consistent pain the lower abdomen from bursting, bleeding, or becoming twisted. Also, sexual intercourse may further exacerbate painful symptoms. If you are experiencing pain like this and believe you may have ovarian cysts, it is important to see your gynecologist because they can help determine the course necessary to relieve the pain. Also, it is important to make sure that these cysts are early forms of cancer. 

HOW ARE DOCTORS ABLE TO DIAGNOSE MY OVARIAN CYSTS?

Ovarian cysts are oftentimes found during routine pelvic exams. Your doctor may also use an ultrasound to create a better picture of the cysts, or run blood tests to find certain compounds that will indicate your condition. Sometimes, doctors will use laparoscopies to look directly into your body for a better diagnosis. This surgical procedure will allow your doctor to not only diagnose your cysts, but also to treat them. 

HOW CAN MY OVARIAN CYSTS BE TREATED?

For cysts that are larger and more painful, treatment for the symptoms is necessary. Depending on your age, symptoms, size and type of cyst, and future family planning, your doctor will be able to decide what treatment plan is best for you. 

  • Oral Contraceptives: Sometimes, birth control pills can help regulate your menstrual cycle and ovarian cysts. The birth control pills work by adjusting estrogen and progesterone levels to mimic pregnancy, your ovaries will not ovulate; reducing follicles and fluid buildup. 
  • Surgery: For more serious cysts, your doctor may recommend surgery. Depending on your type of cyst, your doctor will either be able to simply remove just the cyst, or he or she may need to remove the entire ovary. Oftentimes it is very difficult to predict which type of surgery will be needed. 

IN CONCLUSION

Ovarian cysts are a very common affliction of women during the years they have a menstrual cycle. Although many cysts are benign and will usually get rid of themselves, it is important to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about their painful symptoms. Your doctor will then be able to advise you in the appropriate action to take in order to rid yourself of the symptoms and feel your best.