Ovaries, a part of the female reproductive system, are located in the lower abdomen on both sides of the uterus. Each woman has 2 ovaries. The ovaries are responsible for producing eggs and hormones (estrogen and progesterone). Sometimes, fluid-filled sac(s) can develop inside the ovaries. These are called ovarian cysts.
Ovarian cysts are the tiny fluid-filled sacs, present within the surface of an ovary surrounded by cells. It is a common gynaecological problem. Many women will develop at least one cyst during their lifetime. When the cysts leaks and symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, and bloating occur, then it requires immediate medical attention.
In most cases, ovarian cysts are painless and cause no symptoms. Some cysts present with symptoms like:
1. Pain in the lower abdomen or pelvic region. Usually, pain occurs on one side and is sharp and localized. It can be of types:
- Sudden pain: In some cases, the onset of the pain is quite sudden, however, it may be stimulated due to heavy exercise or intercourse.
- Referred pain: In other cases, the pain can be felt in the upper abdomen, lower back, thighs, or shoulders as the fluid stings the nerves present in the diaphragm.
2. Painful bowel movements
3. Breast tenderness
4. Nausea and vomiting
Ovarian cysts generally develop as a result of your menstrual cycle. They are known as functional cysts, which are usually harmless, cause no or minimal pain, and often disappear on their own.
The two types of functional cysts are:
- Follicular cyst: During the menstrual cycle, an egg grows in a sac (follicle), located inside the ovaries. In most cases, this follicle or sac breaks open and releases an egg. If the follicle does not break open, then the fluid inside the follicle can form a cyst on the ovary.
- Corpus luteum cyst: Once the egg is released, the empty follicle shrinks and starts to get ready for the next egg. This follicle is now called the corpus luteum. It becomes a cyst when fluid collects inside.
Sometimes cysts develop in the ovaries due to abnormal growth of cells and they are not related to the menstrual cycle. These are called pathological cysts.
Other causes of the development of ovarian cysts are:
- PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome): PCOS is caused due to a hormonal imbalance (excess production of male hormone levels (androgen)) which affects the ovaries.
- Endometriosis: in this, the tissues which line the uterus, are found outside the uterus (for e.g., in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, vagina, and rectum), leading to the formation of cysts in these organs.
The treatment options are determined by considering the severity of the symptoms and the risk factors.
1. Laparoscopic Surgery
Your doctor can perform a laparoscopy surgery to remove a cyst only in cases where the cyst is small and to rule out the chances of cancer. In this surgery, the doctor makes a tiny incision near the navel and then inserts a small instrument into the abdomen to remove the cyst.
Laparoscopic surgery for ovarian cysts requires hospitalization for a day or two as per the advice of your doctor.
2. Birth Control Pills
If ovarian cysts occur regularly, your doctor can prescribe oral contraceptives or birth control pills. Oral contraceptives stop ovulation and prevent the development of new cysts.
Laparotomy, also known as celiotomy, is a surgical procedure that is done to remove large cysts. It involves large incisions through the abdomen to gain access to the abdominal cavity and to remove cysts, especially the cancerous ones.
If the cyst(s) is/are small & is/are causing no symptoms, then your doctor may examine you and recommend a rescan after some weeks to see the growth of the cyst(s) or the symptoms.
Every woman must watch out for changes during their monthly menstrual cycle. While there is no way to prevent ovarian cysts, a regular pelvic scan can diagnose any changes in the ovaries. It is advisable to consult a gynaecologist in case of unusual pain or symptoms during menstruation.
Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.