Ovarian Cyst: Symptoms, Causes and Treament

ovarian cyst causes and symptoms

A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms on or inside an ovary.

This article is about the cysts that form during your monthly menstrual cycle, called functional cysts. Functional cysts are not the same as cysts caused by cancer or other diseases.


There are several types of ovarian cysts, such as:

Follicular Cysts:

They grow from egg follicles. Sometimes, eggs fail to develop in their follicles. The follicle can then fill with blood, forming a cyst. Follicular cysts are very common and often give no symptoms.

Luteal Cysts

They are formed from the tissue left behind after an egg is released. Sometimes a portion of the tissue can fill with blood, creating a cyst.

Dermoid Cysts

They are formed from the cells used to create eggs. They may contain hairs, bone, teeth, and other tissue.


They grow on the outer layers of the ovary. Serous cystadenomas are usually small, but mucinous cystadenomas can become very large.

Although the latter cysts are usually benign (non-cancerous), they often have to be removed, since they can put pressure on other internal organs.

Most women with ovarian cysts have no symptoms. Cysts can rupture, causing pain in the lower abdomen.

The main symptoms that do arise are:

Pain or a bloating feeling in the lower abdomen: The pain can be sharp if a cyst has suddenly burst or become twisted. Otherwise, dull, persistent pain is usual.

Discomfort during sexual intercourse: Some other common conditions, such as endometriosis, fibroids, and pelvic infections can cause such pain.

An urge to urinate frequently: Other conditions, such as fibroids, endometriosis, pelvic infections, and bladder diseases can cause this symptom.

Menstrual Changes: Periods may become more irregular, lighter, or heavier.

Feeling full after eating: Sometimes sufferers can feel full after eating, despite only eating a small amount of food. This may also be a symptom of diseases of the digestive system.

Nausea: A symptom that can have many other possible causes.

Constipation: This problem can have many other causes. However, if such condition persists, despite drinking plenty of water and eating a high-fiber diet, it should be investigated.

Fatigue: Extreme tiredness for no apparent cause can occur. Few women with ovarian cysts have all these symptoms. The symptoms are very similar to those found with ovarian cancer.

The cysts can be detected using ultrasound, but it may not be possible to determine whether or not a cyst is cancerous. Blood tests can suggest whether a cyst is harmful or not but are not entirely reliable.

When cysts are caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome, other symptoms such as facial hair growth, acne, and weight gain, are often present.

Ovarian Cyst Causes

The ovary produces follicles from which eggs are released. On occasions, these can fill with blood, forming a cyst. Abnormal cysts of various types sometimes grow, but the reasons are not clear.

Cysts are also associated with some diseases, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome. The latter condition gives rise to many small cysts.

Each month, during the menstrual cycle, a follicle (where the ovum is developing) grows in the ovary. Most months, an egg is released from this follicle, which is called ovulation.

If the follicle fails to open and release an egg, the fluid remains inside the follicle and forms a cyst, which is called a follicular cyst.

Another kind of cyst, called a corpus luteum, occurs after an egg has been released from a follicle. This type of cyst often contains a small amount of blood.

Ovarian cysts are more common in the reproductive years from puberty to menopause. The condition is less common after menopause.

Taking drugs for fertility can cause a condition in which multiple large cysts grow in the ovaries, which is called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Cysts usually disappear after a woman’s period or after a pregnancy.

Functional ovarian cysts are different from ovarian tumors or cysts due to hormone-related conditions, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome.


Often no treatment is needed, apart from regular monitoring by ultrasound. Many cysts disappear of their own accord. If the cyst continues to grow, it should be removed.

Painkillers such as ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen (paracetamol) can be taken while a cyst is being monitored.

Surgery is used to remove cysts. Laparoscopy, using “keyhole” surgery can be used to remove reasonably small cysts. Larger cysts may need full abdominal surgery to remove them.

This operation has a longer recovery time than laparoscopy. If cancer is suspected, the whole cyst and ovary are usually removed.

Tests and exams.

Your health care provider may discover a cyst during a pelvic exam or when you have an ultrasound scan for another reason.

Ultrasound can be done to diagnose a cyst. Your provider may need to see you again in 6 to 8 weeks to verify that it has disappeared.

Other imaging tests that may be done when necessary include:

  • CT scan
  • Doppler flow studies
  • Magnetic resonance

The following blood tests can be done:

  • Ca-125 test to look for possible cancer if you have reached menopause or have already had or have had an abnormal ultrasound
  • Hormonal levels (such as HL, FSH, estradiol, and testosterone)
  • Pregnancy test (serum CHG)

Expectations (prognosis).

Cysts in women who are still having periods are more likely to disappear.

A complex cyst in a postmenopausal woman has an increased risk of being cancer. Cancer is very unlikely if it is a simple cyst.

Possible complications.

Complications have to do with the condition that is causing the cysts and can occur when they:

  • Bleed.
  • Break.
  • Show signs of changes that may be cancerous.
  • Have torsion, depending on the size of the cyst. Larger cysts carry a higher risk

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if:

  • You have symptoms of an ovarian cyst
  • You experience severe pain
  • You have bleeding that is not normal for you

Also, call your doctor if the following symptoms have been present on most days for at least two weeks:

  • Fill up quickly when eating
  • Lose your appetite
  • Lose weight without trying


If you are not trying to get pregnant and develop functional cysts frequently, you can prevent them from taking hormonal medications (such as birth control pills). These medications inhibit the growth of follicles.