What Are Ovarian Cysts?

Ovarian cysts are small, fluid-filled pockets either on the surface of the ovary or within the ovary itself. Most are tiny—as the ovary is no bigger than an almond itself—and resolve on their own, disappearing harmlessly and with little to no discomfort within a few months of appearing. Many women have harmless cysts at some point, and they are usually no cause for concern. Occasionally however, they may cause serious symptoms, especially if they have ruptured. To protect your health, make sure to get regular pelvic exams and ultrasounds, and understand the symptoms that are merely uncomfortable, and those that can indicate more serious issues.


What Are the Common Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts?

Most cysts disappear on their own, but large ovarian cysts can cause:

More severe symptoms can include sudden, severe abdominal or pelvic pain, fever, or vomiting. If you experience these, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. If you have these symptoms or those of shock—cold clammy skin, rapid breathing, light-headedness, or weakness—see a doctor immediately. A ruptured ovarian cyst can trigger sepsis, a potentially life-threatening immune response to harmful bacteria.


What Causes Ovarian Cysts?

Most forms of ovarian cysts develop as a result of your menstrual cycle. These are known as functional cysts. Functional cysts arise from the follicles of your ovaries, which produce oestrogen and progesterone during ovulation. If a normal monthly follicle continues to grow, it becomes a functional cyst, which can be categorised into two main types:

These cysts are usually harmless, rarely painful, and often disappear on their own within a few menstrual cycles. Other cysts are much less common, but often more serious:

These can become large, or displace the ovary itself, increasing the chance of painful twisting (or torsion). This may also decrease or outright stop sufficient blood flow to the ovary.

While most women can simply develop cysts through the menstrual cycle, your risk of developing a harmful cyst is somewhat heightened by hormonal problems, pregnancy, severe infections, or uterine abnormalities like endometriosis. Some cystic masses that develop after menopause might be cancerous, and these less common types can be found during a routine pelvic exam— it is important to get regularly checked.


How Can Ovarian Cysts be Diagnosed and Treated?

Although there is no way to outright prevent ovarian cysts, regular pelvic exams can help ensure that changes in your ovaries are diagnosed early, before they cause significant problems. Depending on the size of the cyst, and its composition, your doctor will likely recommend tests to determine its type, and what kind of treatment will be most effective. Possible tests might include:

Once the presence of cysts is confirmed through methods like those above, you can discuss treatment with your doctor. Depending on your age and symptoms, as well as the type of cyst and its size, your doctor might suggest certain options:


If you are experiencing the symptoms of Ovarian Cysts, make an appointment with Dr.Nicole Stamatopoulos here.