Ovarian cysts are cysts, or fluid-filled sacs, that form on the surface of or inside of the ovaries. Ovaries are two walnut sized glands, one on each side of a woman’s uterus. Ovaries produce eggs as well as female hormones (estrogen and progesterone).
There are different types and causes of ovarian cysts. Follicular and luteum cysts may form during the menstrual cycle but usually do not cause symptoms and will go away without treatment. If endometriosis affects the ovary, it may cause blood filled cysts known as chocolate cysts. Multiple ovarian cysts may be found in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome though the cause is unknown. Abnormal tissue sometimes grows in the ovary and forms dermoid cysts or tumors. Other cysts may be benign or, more rarely, cancerous tumors. Some pelvic infections may cause pus filled cysts or abscesses.
Most ovarian cysts will not cause any symptoms. Some may cause abdominal and pelvic pain or aching, increased pressure on the bladder, breast tenderness, and pain when going to the bathroom, during a woman’s period or during intercourse. Certain ovarian cysts can decrease fertility. While most cysts are not cancerous, there is an increased likelihood of cancerous cysts in older women. Large cysts may cause the ovary to twist or change position. If cysts are large or rupture, seek medical attention promptly. Symptoms to watch for include sharp pains, fever, and increased breathing rate.
Ovarian cysts are one of the most common reasons women visit a gynecologist. The cysts may be felt in a pelvic exam and can be seen in an ultrasound. Treatment options depend on the cause and type of cyst but may include using oral birth control to help prevent development of cysts or surgical removal of a cyst. Most will go away on their own without treatment. If you have been diagnosed with an ovarian cyst, talk to your gynecologist or midwife about the most current treatment options.