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Startling Truths About Ovarian Cysts: Little Known Facts

May 17, 2023

Are you curious about ovarian cysts? This informative post reveals little-known facts about these common growths, including symptoms, causes, and treatment options. Alternatively, you can watch this on video.

Lady with chronic pain that could be from ovarian cysts-facts

Image of the inside of the ovary showing how a follicle develops to ovulation -facts about how ovarian cysts develop
Inside the ovary showing how a follicle matures to ovulation and release of a mature egg

What are Ovarian Cysts?

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can develop on or within the ovary.

They are very common and, most of the time, do not cause any symptoms. It may not be easy for those with symptoms to tell if you have an ovarian cyst without doing tests because the symptoms are quite different.

They may appear slightly different from one woman to another. Other facts about cysts are that they can occur at any age, including during fetal development, and often they go away without treatment.

There are different types of ovarian cysts. Ovarian cysts may affect both ovaries simultaneously, or they may only affect one at a time.

  • Functional cysts are the most common type of ovarian cysts and are usually harmless. They form during the normal menstrual cycle and can be either follicular or corpus luteum cysts.  Corpus luteum cysts: These cysts can develop after ovulation and can cause pain and discomfort. When a functional cyst is full of blood from injury or other cause of bleeding, we call it a Haemorrhagic cyst.  
  • Dermoid cysts. These have cells that produce hair, skin, and teeth. They are usually benign but may become large and cause pain. 
  • Endometrioma develop from endometriosis, a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus. Endometriomas can be painful and may cause infertility.   
  • Cystadenomas: These cysts are full of watery or sticky fluid and can become very large. They are usually benign but can cause pain and discomfort.                                                                                              
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): This is where there are multiple cysts on the ovaries. PCOS can cause irregular periods, acne, weight gain, and other symptoms. 
Ovarian cysts facts - image of a scan photo of an ovarian cyst
What an ovarian cyst looks like in an ultrasound scan

What are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts?

Ovarian cysts can cause various symptoms, including pelvic pain, bloating, and menstrual irregularities like heavy or lighter periods.

Other symptoms are pain during sex, difficulty emptying your bowels, and a frequent need to urinate.

Also, there may be bloating and, a swollen tummy, feeling very full after only eating a little.

Some ovarian cysts can burst, causing sudden, severe pain and sometimes requiring emergency medical treatment. Some can present fertility problems like PCOS and Endometriosis.

Thanks to hormone balance problems, when the ovaries are not working correctly, there can be other symptoms like PCOS: irregular periods, acne, weight gain, excess hair, etc. Learn more about PCOS.

What Causes Ovarian Cysts to Develop?

We don’t know, but most cysts develop along the function of the menstrual cycle when the ovary is trying o do its usual work, i.e. functional cysts, as we’ve described already.

Other things that can lead to cysts developing are hormonal imbalances, which can happen during pregnancy or menopause, and conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Certain medications, such as fertility drugs, could also increase the risk of developing ovarian cysts. Very rarely, ovarian cysts can be caused by ovarian cancer.

What are the Treatment Options for Ovarian Cysts?

Treatment for ovarian cysts depends on the cyst’s size, type, and symptoms. It may include watchful waiting, medication, or surgery.                                                                                

  • Functional cysts – Treatment may not be necessary, as they often resolve on their own within a few months. (Corpus luteum cysts also usually resolve themselves within a few weeks, but surgery may be necessary if they are large or cause severe symptoms). 
  • Haemorrhagic cysts – treatment may involve monitoring the cyst or surgery if it is large or causing painful symptoms.                       
  • Endometrioma – Treatment options include surgery or medication.                   
  • Dermoid cysts – Treatment may involve surgery.                                  
  • Cystadenomas – Treatment may consist of surgery.                                          
  • PCOS – Treatment may include lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, exercise, and medications to regulate menstrual cycles and lower androgen levels.         
Image of the female reproductive system showing the womb and right ovary and fallopian tube circled

How long does It Take to Recover from Ovarian Cyst Surgery?

It depends on the size of the cyst, as that will determine the type of surgery.

We treat the majority of cysts via a type of surgery known as a laparoscopy. This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that removes ovarian cysts.

The surgeon will make a small incision in the abdomen and insert a laparoscope, a thin, lighted instrument with a camera attached.

They will use the laparoscope to visualize the cyst and other structures in the abdomen. Making additional small incisions to insert surgical instruments to remove the cyst might be necessary.   

How can I prevent Ovarian Cysts?

Although we do not know all the causes of ovarian cysts, we know some things that may reduce their risk of developing them.

Women who use combined birth control pills are less likely to develop cysts because the pills’ hormones help prevent ovulation.

Avoid smoking – smoking has been linked to an increased risk of developing cysts.

Something else that may increase the risk of developing cysts is being overweight or obese – this increases the risk of cysts happening.

A healthy diet and exercise can help maintain a normal weight. Knowing your family history as it can run in families so you can monitor yourself.

During menopause, be aware that hormone imbalances can make cysts likely to happen. 

What Natural Remedies or Lifestyle Changes can help Ovarian Cysts?

We think hormone imbalance may play a role in the growth of many types of ovarian cysts. Thus, a combination of lifestyle behaviours that can tilt the balance of hormones may help reduce their chance of growth and support any traditional treatment where necessary.

These options are :

  • Healthy eating – choosing foods that are rich in fibre and low in saturated fats and processed foods will help reduce your risk of inflammation, which can help balance your hormones
  • Weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight provide many benefits and help maintain the balance of hormones like oestrogen or progesterone that can lead to cyst formation.
  • Keeping regular exercise habits promotes circulation and strengthens your muscles and joints. In addition, it promotes mental well-being and reduces stress which contributes to maintaining a normal hormone balance.
  • Check our tips for managing stress here
Laparoscopy for ovarian cysts

When should I see a Doctor if I suspect an Ovarian Cyst?

If you have symptoms, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible so the diagnosis can be made.

While most are functional and settle themselves, others may require specific treatment, as highlighted already.

Are Ovarian Cysts Cancerous?

Most ovarian cysts are not cancerous. Only a tiny number are malignant.

Cancerous cysts are more likely to develop if you have been through menopause.

In this case, regular ultrasound scans and blood tests are recommended to evaluate and monitor the cyst.

In addition, women with a family history of ovarian or breast cancer may be at a higher risk of developing ovarian cysts or ovarian cancer.

Can Ovarian Cysts Affect Fertility?

Fertility is usually unaffected by most ovarian cysts.

However, some types of cysts can affect your fertility, and the ones in question are mainly PCOS and Endometriosis.

If you have these conditions, your doctor will examine the options for your treatment.

However, not every woman with these conditions struggles to conceive, so an individual assessment is helpful for you. 

Hopefully, this post has covered everything you need to know about ovarian cysts, from symptoms to treatment options, with some of these little-known facts! Let us know if you want any further information.

More Reading

Editing By AskAwayHealth Team


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on various healthcare conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality healthcare. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified healthcare practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner here.

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