What Is an Ovarian Cyst?
Ovarian cysts are common, especially with woman who still get their period. They're solid or fluid-filled pockets in or on your ovary. Most of the time they're painless and harmless. You might get one every month as part of your cycle and never know it. They usually go away on their own without treatment. Cysts are also common when you're pregnant.
A cyst becomes a problem when it doesn't go away or gets bigger. It can become painful. There's also the possibility of cancer, but it's rare. The chances go up as you get older.
What Are the Symptoms?
Most ovarian cysts are small and don't cause any problems. When there are symptoms, you might have pressure, bloating, swelling, or pain in the lower abdomen on the side of the cyst. This pain may be sharp or dull, and it can come and go.
Sometimes a cyst may need emergency attention. See your doctor right away if you have these symptoms:
Sudden, severe belly pain
Pain with fever and throwing up
Dizziness, weakness, feeling faint
These signs could mean your cyst has caused the ovary to twist.
Causes of ovarian cysts
In this section we look at the causes of ovarian cysts. As the causes are different for each type of ovarian cyst, we will look at each type one at a time.
There are two types of functional ovarian cysts:
1) Follicular cysts
Follicular cysts are the most common type of ovarian cyst. A female human has two ovaries, small round organs which release an egg every month. The egg moves into the uterus (womb), where it can be fertilized by a male sperm. The egg is formed in the follicle, which contains fluid to protect the growing egg. When the egg is released, the follicle bursts.
In some cases, the follicle either does not shed its fluid and shrink after releasing the egg, or does not release an egg. The follicle swells with fluid, becoming a follicular ovarian cyst. Typically, one cyst appears at any one time and normally goes away within a few weeks (without treatment).
2) Luteal ovarian cysts
These are much less common. After the egg has been released it leaves tissue behind (corpus luteum). Luteal cysts can develop when the corpus luteum fills with blood. In most cases, this type of cyst goes away within a few months. However, it may sometimes split (rupture), causing sudden pain and internal bleeding.
Dermoid Cysts (cystic teratomas)
Dermoid cysts are the most common type of pathological cyst for women under 30 years of age. Cystadenomas are more common among women aged over 40 years.
A dermoid cyst a bizarre tumor, usually benign. This type of cyst develops from a totipotential germ cell (a primary oocyte) - in other words, the cell can give rise to all orders of cells necessary to form mature tissues. Dermoid cysts contain hair, skin, bone and other tissues (sometimes even teeth). A totipotential germ cell can develop in any direction. They are formed from cells that make eggs. These cysts need to be removed surgically.
Cystadenomas are ovarian cysts that develop from cells that cover the outer part of the ovary. Some are filled with a thick, mucous substance, while others contain a watery liquid. Rather than growing inside the ovary itself, cystadenomas are usually attached to the ovary by a stalk. By existing outside the ovary, they have the potential to grow considerably. Although they are rarely cancerous, they need to be removed surgically.
What Kind of Cyst Is It?
Most cysts are considered "functional." They're a part of your monthly cycle.
Follicle cyst. Your ovaries usually release one egg each month. It grows inside a tiny sac called a follicle. When the egg is ready, the follicle breaks open and releases it. If the sac doesn't open, it causes a follicle cyst. These often go away in 1 to 3 months.
Corpus luteum cyst. Once the egg is released, the empty follicle usually shrinks and helps get ready for the next egg. It becomes a cyst when it closes back up and fluid collects inside. It may go away in a few weeks. But it may bleed or cause pain as it grows.
Nonfunctional. In some women, their ovaries make a lot of small cysts. This condition is called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). It can make it hard to get pregnant.Other nonfunctional cysts may be caused by cancer. Ovarian cysts in women after menopause (once your period has stopped) are more likely to be cancerous than those in younger women.