​Ovarian cysts

Ovarian cysts are usually harmless and benign (noncancerous). These fluid-filled sacs form on the ovary, typically during ovulation each month. You may not even know you have one unless it causes a problem. Often ovarian cysts involve no symptoms or complications, and may resolve on their own. Only about 8 percent of premenopausal women who develop cysts need treatment.

Cancerous ovarian cysts are rare and there is no reliable routine screening test. If you have a family history of the disease or other risk factors, get checked by your doctor, especially after menopause.

Two common types of functional cysts form in premenopausal women:

  • Follicle cysts—form when the follicle around the egg doesn't break open to release the egg during your monthly menstrual cycle. Instead, it continues growing and becomes a cyst. These usually don't cause symptoms and go away on their own.

  • Corpus luteum cysts—can be quite painful. They form when the empty follicle sac fails to shrink after releasing the egg. Fluid builds up inside and they reseal, growing up to four inches wide. Most of these also resolve without treatment.

Less common cysts include:
  • Cystadenomas—filled with a watery fluid. These can grow large.

  • Dermoids—come from cells present at birth.

  • Endometriomas—are caused by endometriosis.

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)—occurs when the ovaries produce many small cysts. These can make getting pregnant difficult.

Ovarian cysts causes

Ovarian cysts can occur in women and girls of all ages. The most common causes of nonfunctional ovarian cysts are:

  • Endometriosis—tissue that attaches to the ovary and forms a growth

  • Hormonal problems—caused by hormonal issues or by ovulation drugs

  • Pregnancy—may develop early in pregnancy

  • Severe pelvic infections—that spread to the ovaries and fallopian tubes causing cysts to form

Ovarian cyst risk factors

The potential for developing ovarian cysts or conditions associated with these cysts increases if you:

  • Have a previous history of cysts

  • Have irregular menstrual cycles

  • Have polycystic ovarian syndrome

  • Use the fertility drug clomiphene to start ovulation

  • Use low-dose progestin-only birth control

Ovarian cyst symptoms

If you have an ovarian cyst that causes symptoms, you may experience:

  • Abdominal pressure, bloating and swelling

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or spotting

  • Changes in menstrual periods

  • Pelvic pain that may be sharp or dull

  • Pain with sexual intercourse, urination or bowel movements

If the rupture an ovarian cyst is about to happen, severe pain along with nausea and vomiting can or may occur.

When to see a doctor

Call your doctor for an appointment if you have:

  • Pain that impacts your activities

  • Painful sexual intercourse

  • Periods that change from regular to sporadic during the past 3 to 6 months (and you are not approaching menopause)

  • Periods that change from mostly pain-free to painful during the past 3 to 6 months

If you have any of the following, see your doctor right away:
  • Severe vaginal bleeding 

  • Sudden dizziness with abdominal discomfort that persists for two hours or more

  • Sudden, severe pelvic pain with vomiting or nausea

At The Christ Hospital Health Network, our Women’s Health team treats thousands of women each year. Each one gets individualized care, no matter how common or how rare the condition.

We know that getting back to enjoying your life is important to you. That's why our experienced, leading-edge physicians offer the most advance treatment options available for ovarian cysts.

Do you think you might have an ovarian cyst? Discuss your concerns with your gynecologists or make an appointment with one of our ovarian cysts experts.

Do you have questions about ovarian cysts but are not ready to make an appointment with a doctor? Contact our ezCare Concierge nurse navigator, a free, confidential service designed to help you navigate the best next steps for you and your health. 

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