Did you know that not all cysts are bad? In fact, many women have cysts on their ovaries and have completely normal cycles and can fall pregnant without complications. It is believed that almost all women experience at least one ovarian cyst in their lifetime and feel no symptoms from it at all.

This doesn’t mean that finding a cyst is never a cause for concern. It all depends on the type of cyst and you gynecologist will run all the necessary tests to diagnose and treat it.

Functional cysts

These cysts are the most commonly occurring of the ovarian cysts. They are almost always benign and usually don’t present with many symptoms. They should also go away on their own over time. In a few cases, the cysts present with sharp pain and nausea as symptoms. In these cases, your gynecologist may suggest hormonal treatment or surgically removing the cyst.

Follicular cysts

Each menstrual cycle, the follicles in your ovaries are stimulated to grow and mature. The first egg to reach maturity should then break free of the sac in what is called ovulation. Sometimes, the egg does not rupture the follicle, leaving all of the fluids inside trapped. This can then form a cyst on your ovary.

Corpus luteum cysts

After ovulation, the corpus luteum is what is left of the follicle. Initially, the sac is still attached, but this should dissolve or break down. In some cases, this doesn’t happen or the sac seals the burst and fluid is trapped inside. A corpus luteum cyst can then form.

Problematic cysts

Multiple cysts and polycystic ovarian syndrome

In some cases, women end up with multiple cysts on their ovaries. This does not necessarily mean that you have polycystic ovarian syndrome. Multiple cysts usually results in some form of symptoms or side effects. These include pain in the pelvic area and lower back, and nausea. You may also find it quite difficult to fall pregnant.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a specific type of multiple cysts and is accompanied by large hormonal fluctuations. This can lead to extra symptoms such as weight gain and highly irregular menstrual cycles. Most women with this syndrome find it extremely difficult to fall pregnant without the assistance of hormonal medication.

Hemorrhagic cysts

These cysts form when the body bleeds into the follicle space and it hardens, rather than the normal fluid hardening. They usually occur on corpus luteum cysts because the egg rupturing from the follicle causes the bleeding.

The danger with these cysts is that they can continue to grow if the bleeding doesn’t stop. They can cause immense pain and sometimes they rupture. In this case, they will require surgery to remove the cyst and stem the bleeding. However, in most cases, these cysts will disappear on their own.

Dermoid cysts

These cysts are actually tumors that are usually benign. They develop from germ cells found in the egg sac and actually contain the necessary genetic information to form almost any part of the human body. For the most part, these cysts are painless but they can become problematic if they grow so large that they are actually bigger than the ovary itself. In this case, the cyst will be removed via surgery.

Cystadenomas

These are another form of, usually, benign tumor that can form anywhere in the body. When they form on the ovaries, they usually have to be removed via surgery as they can become quite painful and large.

Ovarian endometrioma

These cysts form when endometrial tissue occurs outside of the uterus. They can grow on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder and bowels. While the cysts themselves aren’t usually dangerous, they can be a precursor to ovarian cancer. This is why your doctor will insist on treating them either with hormones or surgery.

Symptoms of ovarian cysts

While most cysts will come and go unnoticed, some can cause a fair amount of discomfort. The most common symptom is pain at the site of the cyst. You may also experience swelling in the area, pain during sexual intercourse, and sometimes, severe, shooting pain through the abdomen.

When a cyst becomes large or inflamed, you’ll very likely experience these symptoms. In some cases, hormonal treatment may be prescribed. However, surgery is usually the best treatment for a painful cyst.

How is ovarian cyst surgery performed?

These days, the surgeon can remove the cyst via laparoscopic surgery. This means that the incisions are very small and your recovery time is much quicker. You may need hormonal treatment after the surgery, but your doctor will advise you on the best option.

Readers’ questions:

What is an anechoic cyst in my ovary?

The word cyst can give most people a fright. They often associate having cysts with serious medical conditions. However, an anechoic cyst is actually quite harmless. It’s simply a fluid-filled sac that your doctor likely spotted on an ultrasound. Further testing will only be done on it if your doctor deems it necessary. Usually, they will just monitor the size of the cyst over a period of time.