Ovarian Cyst

Last Updated: December 13, 2017

Definition - What does Ovarian Cyst mean?

An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled growth that occurs in the ovary. Ovarian cysts are rarely painful or problematic. In fact, ovarian cysts are exceptionally common; most women will experience them at some point. Since most cysts are asymptomatic it possible to be unaware of their presence. While there are several types of ovarian cysts, most will resolve independently without medical intervention. However, some cysts may cause symptoms or require medical attention. Complications from ovarian cysts are rare but may be damaging to a woman’s reproductive health.

FertilitySmarts explains Ovarian Cyst

There are several types of ovarian cysts.

  • Functional or follicular cyst: develops as a result of standard reproductive behaviors, such as ovulation.
  • Dermoid cysts: contain tissues, hair, or fat.
  • Endometroid cyst: containing tissue from the endometrium.
  • Cystadenomas: appear on the exterior of the ovary.

A standard ovarian cyst is asymptomatic, meaning it causes no noticeable symptoms. However, the following situations may produce symptoms caused by an ovarian cyst:

  • Excessive growth to a large size
  • Bleeding
  • Rupture (bursting of the cyst)
  • Ovarian torsion (when the ovary becomes twisted with the fallopian tube)
  • Sexual intercourse that comes into contact with the cyst

In these cases, some women may experience the following:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Abdominal pain, typically on one side

An ovarian cyst can be diagnosed through imaging tests, including an ultrasound or a pelvic MRI. Most ovarian cysts will resolve independently within a period of 2-3 menstrual cycles, requiring no medical treatment or intervention. Follow up examinations are typically required to ensure the cyst is healing during that time. For women with exceptionally large cysts or postmenopausal women, additional testing and possible surgery may be required.

While most cysts will heal independently, severe cases may require treatment. Therefore, it is essential to report all cyst-like symptoms to a physician. In some cases, cysts may indicate a certain type of cancerous mass. Additionally, ovarian torsion can lead to the organ dying, resulting in the need for its surgical removal. Some cysts may rupture, leading to internal bleeding and life-threatening infection.

Treatment for ovarian cysts includes a variety of courses depending on the individual symptoms and needs. Typical treatments include:

  • Birth control pills, to hormonally control cyst growth and development.
  • Laparoscopy, surgical removal of the cyst through a minor incision.
  • Laparotomy, surgical removal of the cyst, which may be more invasive.
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