What are ovarian cysts?
A woman normally has two ovaries that store and releases an egg monthly during an ovulation. Each ovary about the size and shape of an almond are an essential part of the female reproductive system and are located in the lower abdomen on both sides of the uterus. Most women have an ovarian cyst at least once during their lifetime. A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops on one of the ovaries. Usually, cysts are painless, harmless and present little or no discomfort, most of which disappear without requiring any treatment.
Though most cysts are harmless, there are some that may cause problems such as rupture, bleeding, or severe pain. In such a situation, surgery may be required to remove the cyst in order to avoid further complications.
Who Gets Ovarian Cysts?
Generally, women of reproductive age develop ovarian cysts each month. The vast majority of ovarian cysts are functional and although discomforting, do not pose any serious medical issue. Large cysts that cause problems occur in about 8% of women before menopause. Malignant cysts may be found in conjunction with ovarian cancer.
In order to protect your health, it’s important to get a regular pelvic exam.
Symptoms Of Ovarian Cyst
The following are common symptoms of ovarian cysts though it is possible not to experience any symptoms at all. These symptoms include:
Abdominal pain; a dull or sharp ache in the abdomen or pelvis, especially during sexual intercourse.
Uterine bleeding; pain before or during the menstrual period.
Fullness, heaviness, pressure, swelling, or bloating in the abdomen.
During the rupture of a cyst, there may be a sudden and sharp pain in the lower abdomen.
Inability to completely empty the bladder causing frequent urination or difficult bowel movements due to pressure on adjacent pelvic anatomy.
Statutory symptoms such as fatigue, headaches
Nausea or vomiting
Weight gain, breast tenderness
Cold, clammy skin, rapid breathing and lightheadedness.
Severe symptoms of an ovarian cyst that require immediate medical attention are;
Increased facial/body hair, acne, obesity and infertility commonly associated with the polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
If it is as a result of having endometriosis, then periods may be heavy, coupled with painful intercourse.
As mentioned earlier, usually ovarian cysts do not present any symptoms. But, If you experience any of the aforementioned signs and symptoms chances are you might have a severe case of ovarian cysts and you need to see a specialist immediately.
Types of Ovarian Cysts
There are several types of ovarian cysts and can be categorized as follows:
Functional cysts are non-cancerous and are usually harmless and develop around the midpoint of your menstrual cycle. Even though they sometimes cause symptoms such as pelvic pain, they typically disappear in a few months requiring no form of treatment.
The following are types of functional cysts:
A follicular cyst which develops when the follicle doesn’t rupture or release its egg but continues to grow. Normally an egg forms inside the ovary in a structure known as a follicle. The follicle contains fluid that protects the egg as it grows and it bursts when the egg is released. However, if a follicle doesn’t release an egg, or discharge its fluid and shrink after the egg is released, the follicle can swell and become a cyst. A follicular cyst usually forms at the time of ovulation and can grow to about 2-3 inches in diameter. When it ruptures, it can create a sharp severe pain on the side of the involved ovary and about one-fourth of women usually experience pain with this type of cyst.
Corpus luteum cyst
Once a follicle releases its egg, it starts producing estrogen and progesterone in preparation for conception. This follicle is called the corpus luteum. Occasionally, fluid may accumulate inside the follicle, causing the corpus luteum to grow into a cyst.
A hemorrhagic cyst is a functional cyst that happens when bleeding erupts within a cyst. Symptoms of this type of cyst is an abdominal pain on one side of the body, usually the side that the bleeding occurs.
Non-functional cysts may include the following:
A dermoid cyst also referred to as a mature cystic teratoma, is an abnormal cyst that forms from embryonic cells and usually affects younger women and can grow to 6 inches in diameter. In more severe cases a dermoid cyst can contain other types of body tissues such as fat and occasionally bone, teeth, hair, and cartilage. The can become very large, increasing the chance of painful twisting of the ovary called ovarian torsion.
Endometriomas or endometrioid cysts
Endometriomas are caused by endometriosis. This type of cyst is formed when endometrial cells grow outside the uterus. They develop on the surface of an ovary and might be filled with a watery or a mucous material. It affects women during the reproductive years and may cause chronic pelvic pain. Endometrioid cysts, often filled with dark, reddish-brown blood, may range in size from 0.75-8 inches.
A polycystic ovary is different from the polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and is diagnosed based on its enlarged size usually twice that of a normal cyst with many small cysts underlying the surface of the ovary. Healthy women, as well as women with hormonal (endocrine) disorders, can have this condition.
On the other hand, polycystic ovarian syndrome involves metabolic and cardiovascular risks linked to insulin resistance. PCOS is associated with infertility, abnormal bleeding, and increased incidences of miscarriage, endometrial cancer and pregnancy-related complications.
A cystadenoma is a type of a non-threatening tumour that develops from ovarian tissue. Cystadenomas may be filled with a mucous-type fluid material and can grow up to 12 inches or more in diameter.
Most ovarian cysts are benign (non-cancerous); however, rarely, ovarian cysts may be related to ovarian cancers.
Types of ovarian cyst
Pathological cysts aren’t related to the menstrual cycle cysts, they are usually non-cancerous and are caused by abnormal cell growth and. Pathological cysts develop from either the cells used to create eggs or the cells that cover the outer part of the ovary and can be surgically removed.
Malignant cysts are rare and cancerous, cancerous cysts are ovarian cancer. They are more common in older women.
Your risk of developing an ovarian cyst is heightened by:
Hormonal problems which can interfere with ovulation.
Pregnancy; in some cases, the cyst that forms during ovulation can stay on the ovary throughout pregnancy.
Endometriosis, a condition that causes uterine endometrial cells to grow outside the uterus.
A severe pelvic infection; if the infection spreads to the ovaries, it can cause cysts.
A previous ovarian cyst; If you’ve had one, you’re likely to develop more.
Ovarian torsion: cysts grow large can shift the ovary from its normal position, increasing the chance of painful twisting of the ovary (ovarian torsion). Symptoms of this condition include an abrupt onset of severe pelvic pain, nausea and vomiting. Ovarian torsion can also decrease or stop blood flow to the ovaries.
Rupture: when a cyst ruptures it can cause severe pain and internal bleeding. The larger the cyst, the greater the risk of a rupture. A vigorous activity that affects the pelvis, such as vaginal intercourse, also increases the risk.
Some women develop less common types of cysts that can be found during a pelvic exam. It’s important to undergo a regular pelvic exam.