What are Ovarian cysts?
You may have heard of it from your doctor or your friends. Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs in your ovaries. There are two ovaries in women, one on either side of the uterus. A cyst may form in either or both ovaries.
How are Ovarian cysts formed?
First, we will discuss how an egg is formed and released in every menstrual cycle. Under the effect of hormones released from pituitary gland in the brain, the small follicles which contain eggs start growing in the ovaries. Then one of the follicles becomes dominant and the growth of the rest of follicles stops. As the follicle grows in size, the egg inside it matures and also fluid fills inside it. Normally under the effect of a hormone named LH, this follicle ruptures and the egg is released. The remaining sac of the follicle forms a structure called corpus luteum which produces hormones to support pregnancy in the early weeks if conception happens in that cycle. Otherwise, it regresses.
If there is some problem in this process of egg formation and release, it leads to the formation of a functional ovarian cyst.
Follicular cyst– If the follicle doesn’t rupture and release the egg but keeps on growing, it is called Follicular cyst.
Corpus luteal cyst– If the egg is released but then fluid fills in the corpus luteum it is known as Corpus luteal cyst.
Polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD) – Sometimes women with PCOD think they have cysts in their ovaries. These are not true cysts but a large number of follicles are seen in their ovaries on ultrasound.
The other type of cysts which may be seen in ovaries are divided into two types-
Benign ovarian cysts or tumors– those which have very fewer chances of being cancerous
- Dermoid cysts– these cysts develop from embryonic cells present in ovaries and may have structures like hair, bone teeth, etc in them. They have very little chance of being cancerous but they may twist (undergo ovarian torsion) leading to very less or no blood flowing to the ovary.
- Endometriosis- As we have discussed in our previous blog if you have tissue similar to your uterus lining growing on the surface of ovaries, it may cause formation of blood-filled cysts called endometriotic cyst or endometriomas.
- Cystadenoma– These are fluid-filled cyst and the fluid may be clear watery type of thick mucus-like.
Malignant ovarian tumors– are the ones that are cancerous. They may be cystic (fluid-filled) or solid or a combination of both.
How common are Ovarian Cysts?
Functional ovarian cysts are very commonly found in reproductive age from the onset of menses till menopause. Ovarian cysts may be found in 8-18% of women.
Also read: What is Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome?
Who have more chances of developing Ovarian Cysts?
- Hormonal problems or taking drugs for fertility like clomiphene etc can lead to the formation of ovarian cysts
- Pregnancy- the corpus luteum forms a cyst and doesn’t absorb but persists
- Pelvic infections
- Previous ovarian cyst
What problems may you have with the Ovarian Cyst?
- You may have no problems and the ovarian cyst my be incidentally diagnosed on pelvic examination by the doctor or on an ultrasound.
- The periods may be irregular, delayed or heavy.
- There may be pain or heaviness in the lower abdomen
- There may be sudden severe pain due to twisting of the ovarian cysts.
- In the case of cancerous tumors, you may have a feeling of bloating or fullness even after taking small meal. In the later stage, you may have weight loss, etc.
How are the Ovarian Cysts diagnosed?
The ovarian cysts may be diagnosed on pelvic examination by the doctor. A pelvic or transvaginal ultrasound is also very sensitive at detecting them.
On ultrasound, we can also know about the size of the cyst, the type of cyst- functional cysts are clear water-filled, endometriotic cysts have a different appearance, etc. If needed, CT scan or MRI may be done to know more about ovarian tumors. If we are suspecting cancer, a blood test may be done for a tumor marker known as CA 125 whose levels are raised.
How are the Ovarian Cysts treated?
The treatment of ovarian cysts depends on the type of cysts. Functional cysts generally don’t require treatment and resolve on their own in 1- 3 months or may require hormonal treatment.
The treatment of endometriotic cysts depends on the age of a woman, her desire for fertility or if her family is complete. Surgery may be done to remove the cysts or medicines given to suppress the growth and shrink them.
Dermoid cysts and cystadenomas should be removed by surgery as soon as possible to avoid the complication of torsion.
If torsion has already occurred, you may require emergency surgery and depend on the condition of the ovary, the ovary may need to be removed along with the cyst.
If cancer is suspected, then you should consult specialist doctors to know the treatment options best suited to you, surgery, chemotherapy or a combination, etc.
How can you prevent Ovarian Cysts?
There is no sure shot method to prevent the formation of ovarian cysts. But they can be diagnosed early by regular checks up with the doctor. If you have a problem, you can consult your doctor or otherwise also you can schedule periodic preventive health checks.
If you want to know more or need any kind of help contact Chaitanya IVF or call us at 0172-4633138, 0172-4730039.