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What are Ovarian Cysts?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Ovarian cysts are fluid filled bodies that form on ovaries, and there are many types that may have few to many symptoms. Many women will get an ovarian cyst occasionally, and most are unlikely to notice the fact since the cyst will generally recess on its own with no treatment. Other cysts may grow large, become painful, and run the danger of rupturing, which can harm the ovary and is a medical emergency.

The most common types of ovarian cysts are called functional cysts, and these occur when something goes wrong during ovulation. An ovary produces a follicle each month, which is similar to a cyst, and this releases an egg. Sometimes the release doesn’t occur and a follicular cyst may result, where the follicle continues to expand. Another form of functional cyst is the corpus luteum cyst, where an egg is released but then the follicle is blocked off, allowing accumulation of fluid inside a closed space. These cysts can grow much larger than follicular cysts and may rupture, though others may simply dissipate on their own.

Other forms of ovarian cysts may contain different types of tissue. Dermoid cysts can develop when a cyst has material like teeth or hair in it. Women who have endometriosis are at risk for endometria cysts, which contains endometrial tissue (that lines the uterus) and can expand the disease to the ovaries. Cystadenoma cysts are created on the outside of the ovaries and get very large.

Symptoms may really depend upon size and type. Small cysts may come and go without notice, but some people may notice other disruptions in menstrual cycles that could indicate failure to ovulate and cyst formation. Most commonly if women with cysts might feel pain in one or more of the following areas or times: pelvis, bowels, during bowel movements, at beginning or end of periods, during intercourse.

Ovarian cysts that rupture are a very serious condition and symptoms of rupture mean people should seek medical help right away. Rupture symptoms could include extreme and severe pain in the pelvis, which may be accompanied by fever. Some women will vomit or feel like throwing up because of the degree of pain a ruptured cyst can cause.

There are many treatments for these cysts and these may depend on type and size. Most cysts are not cancerous, though very occasionally one can be, but cancer risk overall tends to be extremely low. With small cysts, especially those noted on a doctor’s exam, the doctor may simply wait a month or two and check again to see if the cyst is still present, has shrunk, or has enlarged. Larger cysts, especially those rapidly growing are at danger for rupture and a doctor may decide to remove the cyst surgically via a variety of methods.

It’s often the case that the way women’s hormones work may influence likelihood of getting more frequent cysts. When women get cysts regularly, doctors may suggest regular treatment to help avoid them. Regular treatment tends to mean medication with hormones to help regulate menstrual cycle.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon171201 — On Apr 29, 2011

I'm 30 years old and i have a left ovarian cyst.

What does the word hydrosalphinx mean? Do i have a chance to get pregnant? i have an irregular menstruation. Please help me. I want to have a baby. What should i do?

By anon50239 — On Oct 27, 2009

i have question, too. I want to ask you guys about this. i have a cyst and it is hurting very bad where i cry. i get fevers and everything that i read up there, i've got. what does that mean for me? my cyst is 5cm. what do you think? help me.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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