Ovarian cysts are not only common, they’re often part and parcel of the ovulation process. In fact, most women develop ovarian cysts during their lives, and the growths simply come and go without incident and women are none the wiser. There are times, however, when ovarian cysts can become problematic.
To help you better understand ovarian cysts, the team here at Associates in Obstetrics & Gynecology, under the guidance of board-certified gynecologist Dr. Jack Tubbs, presents the following information.
The different types of ovarian cysts
During your reproductive years, a normal menstrual cycle goes something like this:
- Your ovary produces an egg
- The egg is housed inside a follicle until its ready to be released
- The follicle breaks down into a group of cells called the corpus luteum
- The corpus luteum produces hormones for pregnancy and/or the next menstrual cycle
Most ovarian cysts occur when there’s a hiccup along this journey. For example, you can develop a follicle cyst if the follicle doesn’t release the egg and grows into a fluid-filled sac (cyst). In most cases, these cysts clear in a month or two.
Another common cause of cysts is when your follicle reseals itself after it breaks open, which leads to corpus luteum cysts. Most of the time, these cysts dissipate in a few weeks, but they can continue to grow — to up to four inches. Cysts can lead to symptoms, as well as put your ovaries in danger if the cyst twists around one.
Outside of these cysts, women can develop ovarian cysts due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which affects as many as five million women in the United States. PCOS is a hormonal disorder that causes your ovaries to become larger and cysts develop.
Most of the cysts we’ve been discussing are benign, as malignant cysts that signal ovarian cancer are very rare.
Signs of problematic cysts
One of our primary takeaways here is that most ovarian cysts come and go without causing problems. When cysts do become problematic, you may experience:
- Pain in your lower abdomen
- A feeling of fullness in your abdomen
- Pain during intercourse
- Frequent need to urinate
If you have pain that comes on suddenly and it’s severe, this is a medical emergency as the cyst may have twisted an ovary or ruptured. The sudden pain may also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. In these cases, you should go straight to the nearest emergency room.
Thankfully, ruptured cysts and twisted ovaries aren’t all that common. In most cases of symptomatic ovarian cysts, symptoms develop gradually.
Treating problematic cysts
If we confirm that you have a cyst (or several) that are presenting problems, we may start with a frontline hormonal treatment to try to shrink the cyst and prevent more from developing. If you still feel symptoms, we can turn to a minimally invasive surgical procedure to remove the cyst.
The surgical approach is a good one if fertility is a goal, as the hormonal medications we use also prevent pregnancy.
If you suspect you may have a cyst or you have more questions about this common condition, please contact our office in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to schedule a consultation.