Ovarian cysts are some fluid-filled sacs (different sizes) that develop in women ovaries. Most cysts are harmless but sometimes cysts could cause problems such as bleeding, infertility, menstrual dysfunctions, rupture, pain and sometimes urgent surgery could be needed.
Ovarian cysts are common among women of reproductive age. In general the cyst contains only fluid and is surrounded by a very thin wall. This kind of cyst is also called a functional cyst, or simple cyst. For example, if the follicle fails to rupture and release the egg, the fluid remains and can form a cyst in the ovary. Small cysts (smaller than one-half inch) may be present in a normal ovary while follicles are being formed.
In most cases ovarian cysts are considered functional (temporary) and most ovarian cysts are not cancerous, and many disappear on their own during some weeks without treatment. But sometimes cysts could be cancerous and very danger for health and life.
Follicular Functional Ovarian Cyst
This type of simple cyst can form when ovulation does not occur – it usually forms at the time of ovulation and can grow to about 2.3 inches in diameter. The rupture of this type of cyst can create sharp severe pain on the side of the ovary on which the cyst appears. These normal cysts will often shrink and disappear within two or three menstrual cycles. In many cases these cysts produce no symptoms and disappear by themselves within a few months.
As this type of cyst is formed during ovulation it rarely occurs in menopausal women because eggs are no longer being produced.
Corpus Luteum Ovarian Cyst
This type of functional ovarian cyst occurs during luteal phase of menstrual cycle – after an egg has been released from a follicle. After ovulation the follicle is transformed in so called “corpus luteum”. If a pregnancy doesn’t occur, the “corpus luteum” usually breaks down and disappears. Sometimes it can fill with fluid or blood and persist on the ovary. In most cases this cyst is found on only one side and produces no symptoms.
Hemorrhagic Ovarian Cyst
This type of functional cyst occurs when bleeding occurs inside of a cyst. It could be traumatic also (after trauma, car accident, etc.). Woman could feel abdominal pain (unexpected) on one side. “Warm treatment” such as heat, warm bath are not recommended and should be avoided.
Dermoid Ovarian Cyst
These types of cysts are usually filled with various kinds of tissues including hair, fat, cartilage, bone and skin. This is an abnormal cyst that usually affects younger women and may grow to 6 inches in diameter. Women with dermoid cysts can have severe abdominal pain.
Endometrioid Ovarian Cyst
These cysts are also known as the chocolate cysts of endometriosis and form when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus attaches to the ovaries. This type of cyst is formed when endometrial tissue (the mucous membrane that makes up the inner layer of the uterine wall) grows in the ovaries. It affects women during the reproductive years and may cause chronic pelvic pain associated with menstrual periods (Endometriosis). Endometriosis is the presence of endometrial glands and tissue outside the uterus. Women with endometriosis could have also infertility.
Endometrioid cysts, often filled with dark, reddish-brown blood, may range in size from 0.5 to 8 inches.
Polycystic-appearing ovary is diagnosed based on its enlarged size – usually twice that of normal – with small cysts present around the outside of the ovary. This condition can be found in “normal” women, and in women with hormonal dysfunctions.
Cysts that form from a buildup of follicle cysts which cause the ovaries to thicken. These cysts cause the ovaries to enlarge and create a thick outer covering which may prevent ovulation from occurring and are often the cause of infertility. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is pretty common and is occur in 4%-8% of women of reproductive age and is associated with infertility, irregular periods, hirsutism, abnormal bleeding and increased incidences of miscarriage.
Cystadenoma Ovarian Cyst
These are ovarian cysts which develop from cells on the outer surface of the ovaries. Cystadenoma is a type of benign tumor that develops from ovarian tissue. They could be filled with the mucous-type fluid. Cystadenoma can become very large and may measure 12 inches or more in diameter. It should be removed as soon as possible.
Risk factors for Ovarian Cyst
- History of previous ovarian cysts,
- Irregular menstrual cycles,
- Increased upper body fat distribution,
- Early menstruation (11 years or younger),
- Hormonal dysfunctions including hypothyroidism,
- Some kind of treatments including tamoxifen and breast cancer therapy.
Ovarian Cyst symptoms
In many cases the ovarian cysts don’t provoke any symptoms and could be found during ordinary physical exam (most frequently during ultrasound exams). Typical ovarian cysts symptoms include:
- Lower abdominal and/or pelvic pain. It could be temporary, severe, sudden, and/or sharp;
- Abnormal menstrual cycle – missed periods, painful periods, irregular periods and/or uterine bleeding;
- Pressure feelings in lower abdomen and/or pelvic area;
- Pelvic pain during menstrual period that may also be felt in the lower back;
- Pelvic pain after sexual intercourse and/or after physical exercises;
- Low abdomen and/or pelvic pain or pressure with urination or bowel movements;
- Dizziness, nausea and vomiting (with or without pelvic pain);
- Pain and/or uncomfortable feelings in vagina;
Treatment for Ovarian Cyst
In most cases ovarian cyst does not need any treatment but it is always very useful to be monitored by the specialist.
Treatment of ovarian cyst depends on the degree of symptoms and depends also on several factors including size and type of cyst, age of client, health indicators, future reproduction plans and level of pain. Important point is – earlier ovarian cyst is discovered, more successful and less invasive the treatment will be.
Sometimes doctors recommend wait two or three months to see if the cyst dissolves on its own. Inexperienced young women could be confused but in many cases cysts can dissolve without any medical intervention or treatment.
Sometimes birth control pills or other hormones could be prescribed which could be very effective in certain types of cysts. Functional cysts are discovered very rare in women who use birth control pills since this method of birth control prevents ovulation. Oral contraceptives are not an effective treatment for other types of ovarian cysts but they do offer some protection against malignant ovarian cysts.
Sometimes surgery is the only solution for ovarian cysts. Surgery is necessary for extremely large cysts, malignant cyst and for cysts which are not responding to hormonal treatment. Surgery could be needed also if client is in menopause, if clients is suffering from severe pain and/or bleeding and if ovarian cyst is twisted. Surgery can involve anything from simply removing the cyst to removing the ovary, or in some severe cases hysterectomy (uterus removal) is recommended.
Oral contraceptives (birth control pills) decrease the risk of developing ovarian cysts because they reduce number of ovarian follicles and they prevent the ovaries from producing eggs during ovulation.
IMPORTANT to know about Ovarian Cysts
Because ovarian cysts often cause no symptoms, it is especially important for women who have had past cysts to have regular pelvic exam. Women who have previously had ovarian cysts are at a greater risk of developing further cysts. Endometriosis should be considered as a negative factor for ovarian cyst (more complicated treatment and high chances for operation).
In cases of malignant ovarian cysts early treatment can best hope for successful recovery. Women in/after menopause who develop ovarian cysts are more likely to have malignant ovarian cysts.
The earlier ovarian cysts are discovered and treated – the better are your chance for complete recovery.
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