In some women, fluid-filled sacs or pockets may develop on the surface of their ovaries, known as ovarian cysts. For many women, these cysts are a common experience and cause little or no pain. In these patients, these cysts are harmless and will generally disappear on their own within a few months of appearing. That being said, for some women, these cysts can present a serious concern, especially when they rupture. Knowing how to identify the symptoms of these cysts and the steps you can take to manage them is essential for these women.
Understanding The Causes Of Ovarian Cysts
While these cysts can appear and disappear for many women with no indication that they were ever there, there are still known causes that make them more common. Functional cysts are a form of ovarian cyst that occurs as a natural part of the menstrual cycle. These are the most frequently seen form and are also the least harmful. There are two types of cysts that fall under this category:
- Follicular Cysts – Midway through your menstrual cycle, the egg will emerge from its follicle to pass through the fallopian tube. This form of cyst occurs when that process doesn’t take place, and the follicle instead continues to grow.
- Corpus Luteum Cyst – This form of cyst occurs when the follicle properly releases its egg, but problems occur with the corpus luteum. This is the name for a follicle that has properly erupted and begins producing progesterone and estrogen. Unfortunately, fluid will sometimes begin to build up in the follicle (now corpus luteum), forming a cyst.
Both of these forms of cyst will generally go away on their own within two or three months, generally causing no pain and remaining benign throughout. There are a variety of cysts that are not connected to the normal menstrual cycle.
- Dermoid Cysts – Teratomas are tissue containing cysts that form from embryonic cells. They often contain skin, hair, or even teeth but aren’t typically cancerous.
- Cystadenomas – These form on the ovary’s surface and may be filled with mucous or a watery material.
- Endometriomas – As the name implies, this form of cyst is tied to endometriosis, where uterine endometrial cells begin forming outside the uterus. In some cases, this tissue will connect to your ovary and form a growth known as an endometrioma.
These cysts are far more prone to becoming problematic and can even cause the ovary to shift out of position if they grow large enough. In some cases, this results in the ovary twisting, causing a painful condition known as ovarian torsion. If this becomes severe enough, it can cut off blood flow to the ovary or just reduce it.
How To Manage Ovarian Cysts
While it is not possible to prevent the formation of ovarian cysts, there are techniques that can be used to mitigate their appearance. The primary method involves careful attention to your body and its cycles once a cyst has been identified. In many cases, the cyst will be reabsorbed without intervention. If this does not occur, there are medications that can help slow or prevent the formation of cysts, and surgery can remove those that have become truly problematic. If you’re concerned that you have cysts that are becoming an issue, reach out to your women’s health provider for an assessment.