Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs in the ovary. They are common and usually form during ovulation. Many women with ovarian cysts don’t have symptoms, and usually, they are harmless.
What Causes Ovarian Cysts?
The most common causes of ovarian cysts include:
- Hormonal problems. Functional cysts usually go away on their own without treatment. They may be caused by hormonal problems or by drugs used to help you ovulate.
- Endometriosis. Women with endometriosis can develop a type called an endometrioma. The endometriosis tissue may attach to the ovary and form a growth. These cysts can be painful during sex and your period.
- Pregnancy. A cyst develops typically in early pregnancy to help support the pregnancy until the placenta forms. Sometimes, it stays on the ovary until later in the pregnancy and may need to be removed.
- Severe pelvic infections. Infections can spread to the ovaries and fallopian tubes and cause cysts to form.
What are the Symptoms?
Most ovarian cysts are small and don’t cause symptoms. If a cyst does cause symptoms, you may have pressure, bloating, swelling, or pain in the lower abdomen on the side of the cyst. This pain may be sharp or dull and may come and go.
If a cyst ruptures, it can cause sudden, severe pain. If it causes twisting of an ovary, you may have pain along with nausea and vomiting.
Less common symptoms include:
- Pelvic pain
- A dull ache in the lower back and thighs
- Problems emptying the bladder or bowel completely
- Pain during sex
- Unexplained weight gain
- Pain during your period
- Unusual (not normal) vaginal bleeding
- Breast tenderness
- Needing to urinate more often
Can They Cause Infertility?
Usually not. Most ovarian cysts do not affect your chances of getting pregnant. Sometimes, though, the illness causing the cyst can make it harder to get pregnant. Two conditions that cause ovarian cysts and affect fertility are:
- Endometriosis: happens when the lining of the uterus (womb) grows outside of the uterus.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): one of the leading causes of infertility. Women with PCOS often have many small cysts on their ovaries.
Can It Lead to Cancer?
Yes, some can become cancerous. But most are not.
The risk for ovarian cancer increases as you get older. Women who are past menopause with them have a higher risk of ovarian cancer. Talk to your doctor about your risk of ovarian cancer.
How are Ovarian Cysts Found?
If you have symptoms of ovarian cysts, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may do a pelvic exam to feel for swelling of a cyst on your ovary.
If a cyst is found, your doctor will either watch and wait or order tests to help plan treatment. Tests include:
- This test uses sound waves to create images of the body. With ultrasound, your doctor can see the cyst’s shape, size, location, and mass (whether it is fluid-filled, solid, or mixed).
- Pregnancy test to rule out pregnancy
- Hormone level tests to see if there are hormone-related problems
If you suspect you have an ovarian cyst because you have any of the symptoms described above, contact us at (479) 582-9268 to make an appointment.
Office of Women’s Health: https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/ovarian-cysts