An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac on an ovary. Ovarian cysts are very common. Most ovarian cysts do not cause any symptoms. In fact, you may not know you have one unless it’s noticed on an imaging study (s)uch as an ultrasound ordered for another reason. In many cases, the cysts go away without treatment.
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Ovarian Cyst Symptoms
The most common signs and symptoms of ovarian cysts are:
- Abdominal pain (may be sharp or dull)
- Pain during intercourse
- Feeling as if you need to urinate or pass a bowel movement
- Nausea and vomiting
Causes of Ovarian Cysts
Most ovarian cysts are the result of ovulation, the process by which an ovary releases an egg. Normally, eggs develop in cyst-like structures called follicles. During ovulation, the follicle bursts and releases the egg.
Sometimes, the follicle does not release the egg but continues to grow. This is called a functional cyst. Another type of functional cyst is a corpus luteum cyst. This type of cyst occurs when the follicle continues to grow after releasing the egg. Functional cysts are harmless, but they can cause pain.
Other causes of ovarian cysts include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis. The use of fertility drugs also increases the risk of developing ovarian cysts. An ovarian cyst is rarely cancerous.
Ovarian Cyst Treatment
Treatment depends upon the size of the cyst, the type of cyst, and whether or not the cyst is causing pain or other problems.
The most common treatment strategies include:
- Surgery. If a cyst is causing discomfort or has persisted and is growing, surgery may be used to remove the cyst from the ovary. In most cases, doctors can remove ovarian cysts through tiny incisions in the abdomen and preserve the ovary. If the cyst is large or suspected of being cancerous, your doctor may remove one or both ovaries.
- Birth control pills. Oral contraceptives will not get rid of an existing cyst, but they can help prevent the development of more cysts.
- Monitoring. If your cyst isn’t causing any uncomfortable symptoms, your doctor may suggest rechecking it using ultrasound in a few months. Most ovarian cysts go away without treatment, so if you’re not in pain, monitoring may be good option.
There is not yet a known way to prevent ovarian cysts.
Dignity Health provides dedicated women’s health services, including diagnosis of ovarian cyst symptoms and ovarian cyst treatment, in Arizona.