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What is an Ovarian Cyst?

Ovarian cysts are a common medical condition that affects the majority of women. These cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form in the ovaries, which are part of the female reproductive system responsible for producing and releasing eggs.

While most ovarian cysts are harmless and disappear on their own without causing any symptoms or complications, some cysts can cause pain or other problems, particularly if they grow larger or rupture. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most women can manage ovarian cysts and prevent any serious complications.

An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled or semi-solid sac that develops on or within the ovaries, which are small organs in the pelvis that produce hormones and store egg cells. While there are various types of ovarian cysts, most are benign and do not cause any discomfort or symptoms. In fact, many women may not even realise they have a cyst unless it is detected during a routine pelvic exam or imaging test.

However, in some cases, ovarian cysts can cause complications such as pain, bloating, or torsion (twisting of the ovary). When both ovaries are affected and develop these cysts, the condition is called bilateral polycystic ovaries. It is important for women to have regular pelvic exams and to inform their healthcare provider if they experience any unusual symptoms or discomfort.

In rare cases, it may require medical treatment, such as surgery to remove the cyst or the entire ovary. This is usually advised if the cyst is large, causing symptoms, or appears to be cancerous. Let's learn more about the types, symptoms, causes, and complications in depth.

Types of Ovarian Cysts

Functional cysts

90% of ovarian cysts are classified as functional cysts, which form as a result of hormonal changes in your menstrual cycle, and they are not associated with any disease. These cysts emerge due to the process of ovulation, which is the release of an egg from the ovary. The presence of functional cysts may indicate that the ovaries are functioning correctly. This cyst typically decreases in size over time, often within 60 days, without requiring specific treatment, and can be cured naturally.

Two types of Functional cysts are:

  1.  Follicular cysts 
  2. Corpus Luteum cysts 

During the menstrual cycle, a small sac known as a follicle in the ovary releases an egg monthly. If the follicle fails to produce an egg, it can fill with fluid and develop into a follicular cyst. Meanwhile, a Luteum cyst forms when fluid accumulates in the group of cells known as the corpus luteum, which is responsible for producing hormones after the follicle releases an egg.

These types of functional cysts are sometimes referred to as simple cysts. They are generally harmless and tend to disappear on their own within a couple of menstrual cycles.

Other types of Ovarian Cysts

While functional cysts are the most common type, there exist different types of ovarian cysts that do not form in response to menstrual cycles. These cysts do not always indicate disease, but they must be monitored to stay safe and avoid any medical complications. They are as follows:

- Cystadenomas: Cystadenomas are cysts that form on the surface of the ovary and can contain either thin and watery fluid or thicker, mucus-like fluid.

- Teratomas (Dermoid cysts): These cysts are cells that produce various types of human tissue, such as skin, hair, teeth, and even brain tissue.

- Endometriomas: Endometrial tissue is filled with cysts and sheds every month during menstruation.

- Ovarian cancer cysts: These are solid masses of cancer cells, as opposed to the previously mentioned conditions.

Causes of Ovarian Cysts

Although the precise cause of ovarian cysts in certain women is unknown, the following are some key contributing factors:

- Ovulation
- Abnormal cell reproduction 
- Endometriosis can lead to cysts forming on the ovary, especially in advanced cases

Symptoms Ovarian Cysts

A cyst in the ovary can cause different symptoms depending on its size. Smaller cysts may not show any symptoms at all. Some of the extremely common ovarian cyst symptoms are:

- Pelvic pain
- Dull ache in the back
- The feeling of fullness or bloating in the lower belly, noticeable on one side of the body
- Uncontrollable pain during intercourse or periods

Who is affected by Ovarian Cysts?

Read out the factors that let it happen; here they are:  

  1.  Age: Ovarian cysts are more common in women who have not yet reached menopause.
  2.  Pregnancy status: Cysts form and persist more frequently during pregnancy.
  3.  Ovarian cyst history: If you previously had ovarian cysts, you are more likely to develop them again.
  4.  Current medical conditions: If you have endometriosis, have hormone imbalances, or are taking ovulation stimulants like clomiphene (Clomid), you may be more prone to ovarian cysts.

Complications Associated with Ovarian Cysts

The side effects that need quick medication are listed below:

  1. Cancerous - Ovarian cysts that arise post-menopause have a higher likelihood of being cancerous compared to those that form prior to menopause.
  2. Rupture - Functional ovarian cysts typically rupture that may result in intense pain and abdominal swelling, particularly if it is large.
  3. Ovarian Torsion - It can occur when cysts become large enough to distort the ovary's shape, increasing the risk of twisting. This twisting can obstruct blood flow to the ovary, resulting in tissue death and causing severe symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and intense pain.

If you experience symptoms of a ruptured ovarian cyst or ovarian torsion, seek medical attention immediately. Delaying can lead to the development of severe chronic issues.

Treatment Option for Ovarian Cysts

The treatment of ovarian cysts will be decided on various factors such as age, symptoms, and the underlying cause of the cyst. Functional ovarian cysts are typically cured on their own without any big test or treatment. If the cyst is believed to be functional, a watchful waiting approach may be recommended by your healthcare provider. 

But in case it is not a Functional cyst, the doctor will initially rule out pregnancy as the cause of your symptoms. Subsequently, they may employ the following tests:

- Blood tests
- Pelvic exam: To check for any lumps or changes in your pelvis.
- Ultrasound: It can identify the location and composition (fluid or solid) of cysts on your ovaries.
- Laparoscopy: Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that involves inserting a camera through a small incision in your abdomen. If the detected ovarian cysts are affecting health, they can be extracted with the help a laparoscopy.

Follow-up imaging may be necessary to ensure that a cyst is not growing. It is common for ovarian cysts to develop at the time of menopause. If your healthcare provider detects an ovarian cyst during a pelvic exam or ultrasound, don't panic.

You can also visit the top fertility experts at Indira IVF to receive a precise diagnosis and effective treatment plan. Follow the prescribed course of action regarding the frequency of appointments required to monitor any concerning cysts.

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