What is an ovarian cyst?
Ovarian cyst refers to fluid-filled sacs or pockets in an ovary. The ovaries are located in the lower abdomen on both sides of the uterus and form a part of the female reproductive system.
There are two important types of ovarian cyst. They are:
- Functional ovarian cysts: They are harmless, short-lived cysts and form a part of a female’s normal menstrual cycle. They are the most common type of ovarian cyst.
- Pathological cysts: They may be harmless or cancerous, and grow in the ovaries.
Ovarian Cyst Symptoms
In most cases, ovarian cysts do not cause any symptoms. However, with the growth of the cysts, certain ovarian cyst symptoms may appear, including:
- Abdominal swelling or bloating
- Painful bowel movements
- Pelvic pain before and during menstruation
- Painful intercourse
- Pain in the lower back and thighs
- Tenderness in breasts
Immediate medical attention is required in cases with severe symptoms. Such signs and symptoms of ovarian cyst may include:
- sharp or severe pelvic pain
- dizziness or faintness
- rapid breathing
Who is at Risk?
Ovarian cyst risk factors vary from individual to individual. Certain Risk factors of ovarian cyst include:
- Hormonal problems
- A severe pelvic infection
- A previous ovarian cyst
Ovarian Cyst Causes
The reasons for ovarian cyst depend upon the type of ovarian cyst. The various causes of ovarian cyst are:
- Functional cysts: There are two types of functional cysts:
- Follicular cysts: The egg is formed in the follicle which contains fluid for the protection of the growing egg until it is released. When the follicle does not release the egg or does not shed its fluid and shrink after releasing the egg, it may swell with the fluid and become a follicular cyst.
- Luteal ovarian cysts: After the egg has been released, it leaves behind a tissue called the corpus luteum. When the corpus luteum fills with blood, luteal cysts can develop.
- Pathological cysts: There are two types of pathological cysts:
- Dermoid cysts: These are formed from the cells that make the eggs.
- Cystadenomas: These cysts develop from cells that cover the outer part of the ovary.
How is ovarian cyst diagnosed?
Diagnosis of ovarian cyst can be done with a routine pelvic examination. A doctor for ovarian cyst may notice swelling on one of the ovaries.
The doctor may order ovarian cyst test such as:
- An ultrasound
- A CT scan
- An MRI
Since majority of cysts disappear in a few weeks or months, the doctor may not suggest an ovarian cyst treatment plan immediately. The doctor may repeat the ultrasound in a few weeks or months to check the condition of the ovaries.
In case of any change of increase in the size of the cyst, the doctor may request additional tests such as blood test for ovarian cyst, pregnancy test, hormone level test, etc. to determine other causes for the symptoms.
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How is Ovarian Cyst treated?
An obgyn doctor may suggest treatment to shrink or remove the cyst if it doesn’t go away on its own or if it grows larger. Ovarian cyst cure options include:
- Birth control pills: In the case of recurrent ovarian cysts, ovarian cyst medicine such as oral contraceptives to stop ovulation and prevent the development of new cysts may be prescribed. It can also reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
- Laparoscopy: In case the cyst is small and tests rule out the possibility of cancer, a doctor may perform a laparoscopy to remove the cyst surgically. Laparoscopy involves making a tiny incision near the navel and inserting a small instrument into the abdomen to remove the cyst.
- Laparotomy: In the case of a large cyst, the doctor may suggest removing the cyst through a large incision in the abdomen. An immediate biopsy may be conducted to determine if the cyst is cancerous. If the cyst is cancerous, the doctor may perform a hysterectomy to remove the ovaries and the uterus.
How can ovarian cyst be prevented?
While ovarian cyst prevention is not possible, early detection of ovarian cysts can be done with routine gynecological examinations. They are also beneficial since the symptoms of ovarian cysts are similar to symptoms of ovarian cancer. Always alert your gynecologist when facing the following:
- Changes in the menstrual cycle
- Ongoing pelvic pain
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal fullness