Ovarian cysts are also called cystic ovarian mass.
It is estimated that 8 to 18% of women suffer from ovarian cysts.
Most ovarian cysts are harmless and cause little or no discomfort. However, large cysts can cause pain.
The ovaries are paired organs that are a part of the female reproductive system. Situated on either side of the uterus, their main function is to produce ova and release sex hormones. Each month, one ovum matures, is released and picked up by the fallopian tubes for reproduction.
The ovaries develop cyst-like structures every month called follicles. Each follicle has an egg surrounded by fluid, which provides protection as it develops. When the egg matures, the follicle bursts open, releasing the egg and the fluid.
There are two types of ovarian cysts:
The causes of ovarian cysts depend on the type.
These cysts are associated with the monthly menstrual cycle. They form when
These cysts form as a result of abnormal cell growth of either the cells that form the egg or those that cover the ovary. They are not related to the menstrual cycle. Pathological cysts may include:
Dermoid cysts and cystadenomas can grow big and shift the ovary from its normal position. This increases the chance of painful twisting of your ovary, a condition called ovarian torsion.
Some cysts do not show any signs or symptoms. If symptoms present, the most common is pain, which may be characterised as follows:
Other symptoms may include
The symptoms that indicate an emergency include:
Cysts are common during pregnancy and can lead to complications such as torsion or rupture. Ovarian cysts present during pregnancy are closely monitored.
Ovarian cysts are mostly benign, but some can become cancerous. The risk increases with age as post-menopausal women are at a higher risk for ovarian cancer.
Ideally, ovarian cysts do not interfere with your fertility, but certain conditions associated with the cysts, such as endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can influence your chances of getting pregnant.
Ovarian cysts are usually detected during a pelvic exam. Other tests that could help in the diagnosis of cysts include a pregnancy test (for corpus luteum cysts), blood test to detect cancer protein, ultrasound and laparoscopy.