Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled growths that can develop inside or on the surface of the ovaries.Ovarian cysts are common and sometimes harmless growths in the form of sacs or pockets that form on or inside the ovaries. The ovaries are a pair of female reproductive organs that produce hormones and hold egg cells, with one ovary located on each side of the pelvic area. Ovarian cysts can occur in one or both ovaries at a time, and they can be filled with either fluid or semisolid material.
How Do Ovarian Cysts Develop?
When a normal monthly follicle in an ovary keeps growing during a menstrual cycle, a functional ovarian cyst may form. There are two types:
- Follicular cysts develop when a follicle does not release its egg during the midpoint of the menstrual cycle but instead continues to grow
- Corpus luteum cysts develop when fluid accumulates inside a follicle after it releases its egg and begins producing hormones for conception
Other types of cysts are nonfunctional and include dermoid cysts, cystadenomas and endometriomas.
What Are the Signs of an Ovarian Cyst?
While ovarian cysts can occur without symptoms, larger cysts may cause discomfort or pain.
Signs to look out for include:
- Pelvic pain (a dull or sharp ache in the lower abdomen)
- Bloating or a feeling of fullness
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Abnormally painful menstrual periods
- Unexplained weight loss
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Trouble urinating or emptying the bladder
Diagnosing Ovarian Cysts
If you suspect that you have an ovarian cyst or are dealing with severe symptoms, your healthcare provider can perform a variety of tests to diagnose your condition. After ruling out pregnancy as the root cause of your ovarian cyst symptoms, your doctor may perform:
- A pelvic exam
- An ultrasound
- Blood tests to check your hormone levels
- A laparoscopy (a surgical procedure that allows the doctor to view the reproductive organs and remove an ovarian cyst if diagnosed at that time)
Treating Ovarian Cysts
Generally, functional ovarian cysts will go away over time without treatment. Birth control pills may be prescribed to stop ovulation and prevent future cysts from forming, as ovulation is a direct cause of functional cysts. In more advanced or painful cases, surgical procedures such as a laparoscopy or laparotomy may be recommended to remove the cyst.
Tampa General Hospital’s Women’s Institute has a team of renowned gynecologic experts who are specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cysts.