Ovarian cysts are way more common than you probably think. In fact, if you’re a premenopausal woman, you probably have at least one ovarian cyst right now.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, most women make at least one follicular or corpus luteum cyst every month during their period. Most of those cysts go away on their own and don’t cause any problems. However, 5% to 10% of women experience cysts serious enough to need surgery.
While there’s no specific way to avoid ovarian cysts, learning about them can help you understand what’s going on with your body and when to visit your OB/GYN.
If you think you may have a problematic ovarian cyst or just want to learn more about your risk for cysts, come see Dr. Donald Jones at Ozark OB/GYN. Dr. Jones has over 20 years of experience in providing high quality, individualized medical care. He, along with the rest of our team, are ready to help you with any of your obstetrics and gynecology needs.
What are ovarian cysts?
Ovarian cysts are typically fluid-filled sacs that form both on the inside and outside of an ovary. Cysts are a part of most normal menstrual cycles, and start life as structures called follicles. During ovulation, follicles produce estrogen and progesterone. That's also when an egg is released for potential fertilization. Most cysts form when ovulation stops but a follicle keeps growing. The vast majority of cysts are small and not harmful. They eventually disappear on their own after a few months.
Types of cysts
Most cysts form as a natural part of ovulation. These are called functional cysts, of which there are two kinds:
As their name suggests, follicular cysts form when there’s an error with a follicle and it can’t properly release an egg. Instead, it forms into a cyst. Follicular cysts are usually harmless and pain-free.
Corpus luteum cysts
These cysts occur due to changes or abnormalities in a follicle. After the follicle releases an egg, it becomes a corpus luteum. Sometimes, fluid (including blood) can accumulate inside the changed follicle and cause a cyst.
There are other types of cysts that aren’t a function of the menstrual cycle. Dermoid cysts develop from embryonic cells and contain tissue like hair, teeth, and skin. They are rarely dangerous. Cystadenomas develop on the surface of the ovary and are filled with mucus-like material. Patients with endometriosis develop a particular type of cysts called endometriomas.
When cysts become dangerous
Cysts become more dangerous as they grow. Symptoms of a large cyst that likely needs medical attention include:
- Abdominal bloating or swelling
- Painful bowel movements
- Pelvic pain before or during the menstrual cycle
- Painful intercourse
- Nausea and vomiting
In severe cases, cysts can grow so large they begin to twist your ovaries around the ligaments that hold them in place, reducing or stopping blood flow. This is called ovarian torsion. A cyst can also rupture and cause internal bleeding. Symptoms of ovarian torsion or a rupture include:
- Sudden, severe belly pain
- Pain with fever and throwing up
- Dizziness, weakness, feeling faint
- Fast breathing
If you experience these symptoms, see a doctor immediately.
Treating a cyst
Treatment for your cyst largely depends on size, placement, and severity. Dr. Jones may recommend any of the following based on your unique situation:
- Surgery: some cysts can be removed without having to remove the ovary
- Medication: hormonal contraception can prevent future cysts
- Careful monitoring: most cysts clear up on their own
Dr. Jones uses the latest in advanced surgical technology to make your procedure as non-invasive and safe as possible.
Are you experiencing pelvic pain or think you might have ovarian cysts? Dr. Jones and the team at Ozark OB/GYN can help. Contact our office today!