What is an ovarian cyst?
Ovarian cysts are small collections of fluid that develop on the ovaries. Your ovaries are where your body keeps follicles (eggs) and there are two of them, one on each side of your uterus. Ovarian cysts are normal and often don’t cause any issues, but sometimes they can cause complications, so this article will help you identify symptoms and discuss treatment options.
What causes ovarian cysts?
Most commonly, ovarian cysts are formed as a result of normal ovulation. These are called functional cysts. Other causes can be benign (non-cancerous) ovarian tumors called dermoid cysts. Fluid collections called cystadenomas can also form and grow to be quite large. Some people also experience endometriomas, which are cysts in people with endometriosis.
What are the symptoms of an ovarian cyst?
The majority of cysts have no symptoms and will go away on their own. However, it’s important to be aware of other possible symptoms:
If you have very sudden pelvic pain, and/or vomiting and fever, you should see a doctor immediately.
When should I see a doctor about ovarian cysts?
As mentioned above, many cysts go away on their own and have mild symptoms, usually referred to as functional cysts. If you’re experiencing severe pain, or you’re experiencing vomiting and fever with pain, you should see a doctor right away. To evaluate an ovarian cyst, a doctor may have you take a pregnancy test, a blood test and perform an ultrasound. Based on those results sometimes a laparoscopy (a very small surgery in your abdomen) might be recommended.
How do you treat an ovarian cyst?
If your cysts are small and you don’t have symptoms, the doctor will likely recommend that you wait and get a follow up exam in a few months to make sure the cyst hasn’t grown. In cases where the cyst is large and is causing more severe symptoms, it may be removed by surgery. Birth control can’t be used to treat cysts, but it may be recommended to keep cysts from coming back because most birth control methods prevent ovulation.
What happens if an ovarian cyst isn’t treated?
It’s possible that if an ovarian cyst goes untreated it may rupture, which can cause internal bleeding. Larger cysts are more likely to rupture and some activities like strenuous exercise or vigorous intercourse may increase the chances of the cyst rupturing. The other possible complication is called ovarian torsion, which means that the ovary becomes twisted and is a medical emergency.
Having ovarian cysts does not mean that you have ovarian cancer, but some symptoms may be similar. For these reasons, it’s important to speak to a doctor if you experience the symptoms listed above.
How can I prevent ovarian cysts?
There is not a specific way to prevent ovarian cysts, so it’s recommended that you establish routine care with your gynecologist or primary care provider. They can perform a pelvic exam if needed and speak with you about any symptoms you’re experiencing, so that you can receive the appropriate treatment.
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