What are Ovarian Cysts?
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Ovaries are female reproductive organs that are present on both sides of the urethra in the lower abdomen. During child bearing years they release an ovum (egg) due to their monthly cycles. They also produce different hormones including estrogen and progesterone.
Sacs that contain a fluid may develop in the cysts on its surface and are termed as ovarian cysts. They may vary in size and disappear on their own without any treatment. However, in some cases, they may rupture and are capable of causing health complications and requires serious medical attention.
Types of Ovarian Cysts
Ovarian cysts can be broadly divided into two types:
- Functional ovarian cysts: Harmless yet common, they grow during the female’s normal menstrual cycle and are temporary, as they disappear on their own.
- Pathological cysts: May be malignant or harmless and their nature differs for different individuals.
They can be sub-divided into the following categories:
- Follicular cysts: The egg requires a sperm to fertilize the egg and form a baby in the womb. The follicle contains a fluid that protects the egg while it grows. Normally, the cyst should burst after the release of the egg. However, in some cases the cyst does not shrink after releasing the egg or does not release the egg at all. Under such a situation, the follicle swells and becomes a follicular ovarian cyst. It is common for these cysts to appear at a point and disappear later.
- Luteal ovarian cysts: Corpus luteum is the tissue that is left behind after the release of the egg. These residual parts or when blood fills the corpus luteum, it develops into luteal ovarian cysts. Sudden rupture or splitting of the cyst may result in internal bleeding and pain.
- Dermoid cysts: Cells that make up the eggs form dermoid cysts. These types of pathological cysts are prevalent among women above the age of 30 years. The removal of these growths is possible through surgery.
- Cystadenomas: Cells that cover the outer part of the ovary form cystadenomas. They may contain watery liquid or thick mucus like substance. This type of cyst can grow to a larger size as they do not grow on the ovary but attach them to the ovary with the help of a stalk. Women who are above the age of 40 are likely to develop this type of cyst.
Ovarian Cysts Symptoms
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Pain during intercourse – dyspareunia
- Experience of tenderness in the breast
- Pain in the lower back and thighs
- Breathing rapidly
- Sharp pain in the pelvic region
- Pain before and during menstrual cycle
- Pain during bowel movement
- Heaviness in the abdomen
- Irregular menstruation
- Desire to urinate frequently due to inability to empty the bladder in a single chance
- Changes in the growth of breast and body hair
Ovarian Cysts Causes
- Hormonal problems: The ovaries are important female reproductive organs and hormones influence them in a major way. Hormonal changes could cause over secretion of certain hormones or fluids that cause the tissues to swell and result in the formation of the cysts. Polycystic ovary syndrome occurs due to changes in hormonal levels.
- Previous ovarian cysts: People who have had ovarian cysts in the past are likely to develop them again. It could be a result of the working of their body mechanism. It provides the necessary conditions for the cysts to develop again and again.
- Endometriosis: It refers to a condition in which the uterine endometrial cells grow outside the uterus. These tissues can attach themselves to the ovary and form a growth. When any fluid fills the tissues, it can take the form of an ovarian cyst.
- Pelvic infection: An infection in the pelvic region can spread to the ovaries. It may cause inflammation and filling of the fluid in the swelling, this can also lead to the formation of the cyst.
- Pregnancy: Pregnancy stops the monthly menstrual cycle in the female body. Expulsion of the materials that is possible during menstruation does not occur when a woman is pregnant. Thus, it blocks the path of these substances that are normally taken out of the body. Thus, it is another way in which it makes the individual prone to develop ovarian cysts.
Ovarian Cysts Complications
- Ovarian cysts that form after menopause may be cancerous
- Larger cysts are more likely to rupture
- Internal bleeding and pain occurs in case of a rupture
- May rupture during intercourse or other activities that exerts pressure on the pelvis
- Larger cysts may cause the ovary to move and twist which causes severe pain, it can also stop the blood supply to the ovaries and is known as ovarian torsion
Ovarian Cysts Diagnosis
- Pelvic examination
- CT Scan
- Pregnancy test
- Hormonal level test
- CA-125 blood test to check for ovarian cancer
Ovarian Cysts Prevention
- Regular pelvic examination
- Note changes in menstrual cycle
- Check unusual menstrual symptoms
- Observes sudden loss of weight or appetite
Ovarian Cysts Treatment
- Medication: Certain medications such as hormonal birth control pills are effective in treating ovarian cysts. They are unable to remove or reduce the size of the cyst. However, they are able to effectively help in the regulation of the menstrual cycle and pattern. The birth control pills stop ovulation hence, lowering chances of the formation of a cyst.
- Observing: Sometimes the cyst may appear and disappear on its own time without the need of any treatment. Observing the cyst gives the person the time to watch the growth of the cyst. If the cyst reduces in size on its own, then there is no need for any surgery.
- Surgery: If the cyst is large, it may require surgical removal. A cystectomy is the removal of the cyst only, while an oophorectomy involves the removal of one (the affected) ovary. If the cyst is cancerous, it may require the removal of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tube known as a hysterectomy.
When to visit a doctor?
An individual must seek immediate medical advice if she experiences the following:
- Sudden severe abdominal pain
- Fever and vomiting
- Rapid breathing
- Skin feels cold or clammy
Ovarian Cyst Pictures: