What are ovarian cysts?
Ovarian cysts are little sacs of fluid that form from a woman’s ovary. Each woman has two ovaries, one on each side of her belly. The ovaries release an egg every month. Ovarian cysts can cause pain or a sense of pressure within the belly. Sometimes, women might not feel them at all. Most of the women worry about cancer once they learn about their cysts. But most of the time, cysts are not cancerous.
What are the symptoms of ovarian cysts?
Many women have no symptoms. Symptoms can include pain or pressure in the lower belly. Pain can be either dull or sharp, and it can be continuous or intermittent.
Sometimes, a cyst can break open or can cause the ovary to twist. This can be a serious problem. Call your doctor directly or attend the emergency if you are feeling intense pain within the lower belly on either side that does not get away. Along with the pain, you might have nausea, vomiting, or have light bleeding from your vagina.
What causes ovarian cysts?
There are many possible causes of ovarian cysts. The most common causes include:
- Ovulation or pregnancy – Ovulation is when an egg is released from the ovary monthly. For this to happen, the ovary grows a sac, called a “follicle.” Sometimes, a follicle grows but doesn’t release an egg and instead forms a cyst. Or, if a lady gets pregnant after the egg is released, a cyst can stay the ovary for weeks or months. These kinds of cysts are not harmful and usually go away on their own.
- Dermoid cysts – These are seen commonly and might have teeth, hair, or fat in them. That might sound strange. Dermoid cysts are normally not harmful to your health, but your doctor might want to get rid of them with surgery.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (also called PCOS) – In women with this condition, the ovary grows many small cysts, rather than one big follicle that goes away monthly. These cysts usually don’t get away, but there is no need to treat them. PCOS requires treatment for reasons unrelated to the cysts.
- Endometriosis – Endometriosis is a condition where the endometrial tissue, normally found in a woman’s uterus, is present outside the uterus. In endometriosis, cysts can be present on the ovary. Women with endometriosis may present with belly pain during their periods or at other times, pain during sex, or trouble getting pregnant.
- Cancer – Cancer is seen in ovarian cysts in less than 1 in 100 cases. Ovarian cancer is more common in older women who are postmenopausal (no longer have a monthly period) or who have a family history of ovarian cancer.
Is there a test for ovarian cysts?
Yes. Common tests include:
- Imaging tests – Commonly used is a pelvic ultrasound. This test uses sound waves to form an image of your uterus and ovaries. The images can show if you have cysts, their size, location and number. Your doctor might also ask for MRI or a CT scan.
- Blood tests to see for pregnancy or the likelihood of cancer
How are ovarian cysts treated?
That depends on what is causing your cysts and what your symptoms are. Possible treatments include:
- Waiting – Your doctor might want to follow up with an ultrasound every few months. Your cysts might stay an equivalent size, get smaller, or maybe get away. In those cases, you usually don’t need to do anything to treat them.
- Birth control pills – This medicine can stop some sorts of new cysts from growing.
- Surgery to get rid of a cyst or the entire ovary
What if I want to get pregnant?
That depends on what’s causing your ovarian cysts. Most women with cysts are able to get pregnant. Women can get pregnant even with one functional ovary. If you cannot get pregnant, medicines or new technologies can help. Talk to your doctor if you want to have a baby.