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What All Women Should Know About Ovarian Cysts

What is an Ovarian Cyst?

An ovarian cyst is a sac filled with fluid or a semisolid material that develops on or within the ovary.

Ovarian cysts are also called Physiologic ovarian cysts and Functional ovarian cysts.

Types of Ovarian Cysts

  • Functional Cyst. Functional cysts are the most common type of ovarian cyst. They often form during the normal menstrual cycle. Functional ovarian cysts usually disappear within 60 days without treatment and are relatively common. They occur most often during childbearing years (puberty to menopause), but may occur at any time.
  • Endometriomas. Endometriomas develop in women who have endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when tissue from the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus.
  • Cystadenomas. Cystadenomas develop from cells on the outer surface of the ovary. They are often filled with a watery fluid or thick, sticky gel.
  • Dermoid cysts. The cells in the ovary are able to make hair, teeth, and other growing tissues that become part of a forming ovarian cyst.
  • Polycystic ovaries. The eggs mature within the follicles, or sacs, but the sac doesn't break open to release the egg. The cycle repeats, follicles continue to grow inside the ovary, and cysts form.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts

In some cases, symptoms are not present. When symptoms are present, the most common symptoms of are:

  • A constant, dull ache in the lower back and thighs.
  • Pain with intercourse or pelvic pain during movement.
  • Pelvic pain shortly after beginning or ending a menstrual period.
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Abnormal uterine bleeding
    • lengthened menstrual cycle
    • shortened menstrual cycle
    • menstruation, absent
    • irregular menstruation
  • Abdominal bloating or distention
  • Pressure, fullness, or pain in the abdomen
  • Weight gain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Breast tenderness

Can Ovarian Cysts be Treated?

Yes. Functional ovarian cysts typically disappear within 60 days without any treatment. Oral contraceptive pills may be prescribed to decrease the development of functional ovarian cysts.

Ovarian cysts that do not appear to be functional may require surgical removal by laparoscopy or exploratory laparotomy. Surgical removal is often necessary if a cyst is revealed that is larger than 6 centimeters. A ovarian cyst may need to be removed it if is present for longer than 6 weeks.

What are Ovaries?

The ovaries are a pair of female reproductive organs. They are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries are connected to each other by the Fallopian tubes. Each ovary is about the size and shape of an almond. The ovaries have two functions: they produce eggs (also called ova) and female hormones. The size of each ovary is about 1.5 inches long.

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