Ovarian cysts are more common than many people think. Most women never know they have ovarian cysts unless something goes wrong. Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that happen to be found in or on the ovary. The type of cysts that form after an egg is released during ovulation are generally harmless. Women experience more ovarian cysts during the childbearing years. After menopause, ovarian cysts are less common.
Symptoms may include:
- Lower abdomen pain
According to the Mayo Clinic, you should see a doctor immediately if you have:
- Pain with fever or vomiting
- Sudden onset of severe abdominal or pelvic pain
- Cold, clammy skin
- Rapid breathing
- Lightheadedness or weakness
Types of Ovarian Cysts
During the menstrual cycle, the ovaries are supposed to release an egg that then travels down the fallopian tubes. Sometimes, interruptions occur during portions of the menstrual cycle. Functional cysts are the benign result of certain malfunctions during ovulation.
- FOLLICLE CYST — If the follicle fails to open and traps an egg inside, a follicle cyst is likely to form. These usually go away on their own in one to three months without anyone knowing they existed. Though, some are discovered during regularly scheduled gynecological exams.
- CORPUS LUTEUM CYST — Once an egg is released, the empty follicle is supposed to shrink. The mass of cells that forms from the shrunken follicle is called corpus luteum. Corpus luteum begins preparing the ovary for the next egg by making hormones. If a follicle sac reseals itself instead of shrinking, fluid builds up inside and forms corpus luteum cysts. This type of cyst can get close to four inches wide, but most go away on their own after a few weeks.
Less Common Benign Ovarian Cysts Include:
- DERMOIDS — Cells are present from birth. Dermoids are usually symptom-free.
- CYSTADENOMAS — Sacs are filled with a watery fluid and have been known to grow large.
- ENDOMETRIOMAS — “Chocolate cysts” are caused by endometriosis. When a piece of excess uterine lining sloughs off and connects with an ovary, it can grow larger both in and on the ovary.
Troublesome Ovarian Cysts:
- POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME (PCOS) — When the ovaries go overboard and make a bunch of small cysts, it is known as PCOS. Unfortunately, PCOS is known to cause fertility issues for some women.
- OVARIAN CANCER — Malignant cysts occur more often in older women. As women navigate menopause, it is important to get any ovarian cysts checked by your doctor. After menopause, the CA-125 test can help detect ovarian cancer for many women. A cyst that seems questionable should be watched and tested, regardless of the patient’s age.
Risk Factors: What Do We Know?
We do know that certain conditions increase the risk of developing some types of ovarian cysts.
- Hormonal issues affecting ovulation can increase your risk of ovarian cysts, especially if you take fertility drugs like Clomid.
- Being pregnant can help cysts remain on the ovary until after birth.
- Having an ovarian cyst in the past makes you more susceptible in the future.
- An endometriosis diagnosis means you may develop “chocolate cysts” made from old uterine tissues.
- Severe pelvic infections that spread to the ovaries can cause cysts.
Be Aware of Rare Complications Caused By Ovarian Cysts
If symptoms start suddenly and include nausea, vomiting, and severe pelvic pain, it is possible the ovary has twisted. Ovarian torsion can also prevent the affected ovary from receiving blood. A ruptured cyst can also cause severe pain and increases the chances of internal bleeding.
Do Ovarian Cysts Affect Fertility?
No, most types of common ovarian cysts do not negatively affect fertility. PCOS and endometriosis are not like the functional cysts produced during the menstrual cycle and can cause fertility problems for many women.
What Preventative Measures Can I Take?
Report any concerning symptoms to the team at Viera Fertility Center. Catching abnormalities related to the ovaries sooner, rather than later, usually means they will be easier to treat.