Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs or pockets within or on the surface of an ovary.
Many women develop ovarian cysts at some time during their lives.
Most ovarian cysts develop as a result of the normal function of the menstrual cycle. These are known as functional cysts.

The ovaries normally grow cyst-like structures called follicles each month. Follicles produce the hormones oestrogen and progesterone and release an egg when you ovulate. Sometimes a normal monthly follicle keeps growing. Functional cysts are usually harmless, rarely cause pain, and often disappear on their own within two or three menstrual cycles.

Some types of cysts are not related to the normal function of your menstrual cycle.
These cysts include:

Dermoid cysts: They contain tissue, such as hair, skin or teeth.
Cystadenomas: These cysts develop from ovarian tissue and may be filled with a watery liquid or a mucous material.
Endometriomas: These cysts, that are also known as chocolate cysts, develop as a result of endometriosis, a condition in which uterine endometrial cells grow outside the womb.

Dermoid cysts and cystadenomas can become large and cause twisting of ther ovary, called ovarian torsion.

Symptoms

• Pelvic/abdominal pain or discomfort
• Painful intercourse
• Abdominal distension (swelling)
• Difficulty passing urine
• Abnormal bleeding
• Ovarian torsion. Cysts that become large may cause painful twisting of the ovary, called ovarian
torsion.
• Rupture. A cyst that ruptures may cause severe pain and lead to internal bleeding.

Investigations

Pelvic ultrasound. It can confirm the presence of a cyst, help identify its location and consistency
MRI can sometimed be necessary if the ultrasound is inconclusive regarding the location or the nature
of the cyst.
CA 125 blood test. Blood levels of this protein are often elevated in women with ovarian cancer. This
test can help determine whether your cyst could be cancerous. Elevated CA 125 levels can also occur
in noncancerous conditions, such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids and pelvic inflammatory disease.

How are ovarian cysts treated?

It depends on what is the cause of the cyst and what your symptoms are. Possible treatments include:
Watchful Waiting – In cases of small simple cysts you will need an ultrasound scan every three months. Your cysts might remain the same size, get smaller, or even disappear. In those cases, you usually don’t need any treatment
Contraceptive pills – They can stop some types of new cysts from growing.
Surgery to remove the cyst or the whole ovary. If a cyst is large, causing symptoms or appears suspicious for cancer, treatment involves surgery to remove the cyst or the entire ovary. In the vast majority of cysts the operation is done via keyhole surgery.

 

Find out more about treatments for ovarian cysts