The ovaries are a central part of the female reproductive system. All women have two ovaries. They are roughly the size of a walnut and are located in the lower abdomen on either side of the uterus. They have two main purposes, both of which are very important for reproduction.
First, they produce an egg each month to be fertilised by a sperm. Second, they are responsible for producing hormones such an oestrogen, which trigger the menstrual cycle. Some women experience ovarian pain, which can be caused by a number of conditions, one of the most common benign ovarian cysts.
Let’s take a look at what ovarian cysts are, symptoms and treatments, diagnosis and prevention.
Most women will experience an ovarian cyst at least once in their life. Let’s take a look at what they are, symptoms and treatments, diagnosis & prevention.
What Are Ovarian Cysts?
Ovarian cysts are small, closed, fluid-filled sacs that grow in the ovaries. They are quite common. Most women will experience ovarian cysts at least once in their life, and often they do not cause pain, are symptomless, and come and go unnoticed. But they can also be troublesome if they grow.
There are multiple types of ovarian cysts, but the two most common are:
Follicular cysts – During a woman’s menstrual cycle, the egg grows inside a sac called a follicle, which is located inside the ovaries. When the egg is ready for fertilisation, the follicle breaks open and releases it. If the follicle doesn’t open, the fluid inside can form a cyst.
Corpus luteum cysts – After the egg is released, these follicle sacs usually dissolve in order to get ready for the next egg. However, if the follicle seals again, fluid can build up inside, forming a corpus luteum cyst.
Other less common ovarian cysts include dermoid cysts, cystadenomas, endometriomas, and hemorrhagic cysts. While most ovarian cysts are benign, meaning they are non-cancerous, rarely they may be related to ovarian cancer.
Polycystic ovary syndrome: Some women develop a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome – abbreviated as PCOS. This is where a large number of small cysts grow, causing an enlargement of the ovaries. It is often linked with infertility.
Often there are no symptoms of ovarian cysts, however, if they grow, symptoms can arise.
• Pelvic pain
• Painful intercourse
• Abdominal bloating
• The need to urinate more often than usual
• Pain in the abdomen and/or lower back
A ruptured ovarian cyst can be very serious and may require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of a ruptured ovarian cyst include:
• Severe pelvic pain
• Sudden pain on the side where the ruptured ovary
• Internal bleeding
• Faintness or dizziness
Treatment of ovarian cysts will depend on the type.
Most of the time they will go away on their own, however observation is key, especially for larger cysts or those that are causing mild symptoms. This may require repeat ultrasounds to track development.
If a cyst continues to grow, is causing severe symptoms, has ruptured, or is suspected of being cancerous, surgery may be recommended. If you have recurring ovarian cysts, oral contraceptives be prescribed to prevent the development of new cysts.
Prevention and Diagnosis of Ovarian Cysts
Unfortunately, most ovarian cysts cannot be prevented. And although they often do not cause any symptoms, it is important to see your gynaecologist regularly in order to detect ovarian cysts early. Diagnosis may require a pelvic ultrasound, pelvic examination, endovaginal ultrasound, blood tests, or laparoscopic surgery.
If you have any questions regarding ovarian cysts, any symptoms you’re experiencing, or any other gynaecological issues and would like to book an appointment, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We will strive to offer advice and compassionate care in every way possible.