What are Ovarian Cysts?

Ovarian cysts are sac-like structures, which contain fluid and grow in, on or near the surface of an ovary. These are also referred to as ‘growths’. It is a common problem which women may experience at some point of time during their reproductive years. It has also been seen during pregnancy.

Majority of ovarian cysts are benign and may not represent a tumor or cancer. These present little or no discomfort and are harmless. However, in some cases, these cysts cause pain and bleeding. Further, if the cyst is bigger than 5cm in diameter, it may require surgery for removal. Smaller cysts disappear without treatment within a few weeks to a few months.

Causes of ovarian cysts

An ovarian follicle is a round cellular structure in the ovaries that contains the egg which is also known as an oocyte. The egg matures in the follicle and then is finally released during ovulation. The follicle also secretes hormones that controls the entire ovarian cycle.

If the ovarian follicle does not release the egg during ovulation, it results in the growth of the egg within the ovary only which then becomes a cyst. Ovarian cysts are usually non cancerous and are very common in women post puberty. They usually do not cause lot of discomfort and usually disappears without treatment most of the times. But in few rare cases, these cysts can be very painful and might also need a surgical removal. This happens usually when the cysts size gets too large, and they push the ovary out of its normal position and leads to the twisting of the ovary. The shift causes sudden and extreme pain which requires surgery to get it corrected.

While many women have cysts at some point, some women’s bodies produce more androgen, a male sex hormone, than normal. As a result, eggs are repeatedly not released from the follicles, and cysts build up in the ovaries, leading to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Women with this condition typically have problems with fertility, and they also often suffer from increased hair growth and a higher risk of diabetes, heart attack, and endometrial cancer. Regular exercise and a healthy diet may help keep PCOS under control, and birth control pills may be prescribed to help control hormone levels and decrease the chance of developing new cysts.

What are its symptoms?

Often ovarian cysts present no symptoms and that’s why women do not notice the presence of cysts. As the cyst grows in size, following symptoms may be experienced:

  • Abdominal discomfort – bloating, swelling, heaviness or fullness.
  • Painful periods, heavy bleeding or irregular menses
  • Change in bowel movements or urination– painful evacuation or change in frequency of  urine
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain in the lower back or thighs
  • Breast tenderness
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Weight gain
  • Vaginal pain or spot bleeding
  • Infertility

There are some natural treatments for this. Read about them here.

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