Ovarian cysts are -filled sacs or pockets in an ovary or its surface.
By Faozat Aragbaye
Many women have ovarian cysts at sometime. Most ovarian cysts present little or no discomfort and are harmless. The majority disappears without treatment within a few months.
However ovarian cysts , especially those that ruptured, can cause serious the most common types symptoms.
There are various types of ovarian cysts, such as demoid cysts and endometrioma cysts, however functional cysts the most common type. The two types of functional cysts include follicle and corpus luteum cysts.
Most ovarian cysts develop as a result of the menstrual cycle (functional cysts). Other types are much less common.
Functional cysts. The ovaries normally grow cyst-like structures, called follicles each month. Follicles produce the hormones, oestrogen and progesterone and release an egg for ovulation.
If a normal monthly follicle keeps growing, its known as functional cysts. There are two types of functional cysts:
- Follicular cyst. A follicular cyst begins when the follicle doesn’t rupture or release its egg but continues to grow.
- Corpus luteum cyst. When a follicle releases its gg, it begins producing oestrogen and progesterone for conception. This follicle is called corpus luteum. Sometimes fluid accumulates inside the follicle, causing the corpus luteum to grow into a cyst.
Risk of developing ovarian cyst is heightened by:
- Hormonal problems. These include taking the fertility drugs which is used for ovulation purpose.
- Pregnancy. Sometimes, the cyst that forms during ovulation stays throughout the pregnancy.
- Endometriosis. Uterine endometrial cells that grow outside the uterus can attach to the ovary and form a growth.
- A severe pelvic infection. If infection spreads to the ovaries, it can cause cyst.
- A previous ovarian cyst.
Signs & symptoms
Most cysts are symptomless. If symptoms are present, they are not always useful for diagnosing an ovarian cyst, because other conditions have similar symptoms.
Symptoms of ovarian cysts may include:
- Irregular and possibly painful menstruation: it may be heavier or lighter than before.
- Pain in the pelvis: This may be a persistent pain or an intermittent dull pain that spreads to
the lower back and thighs. It may appear just before menstruation begins or ends.
- Dyspareunia”: This is pelvic pain that occurs during sexual intercourse.
- Bowel issues: These include pain when passing a stool, pressure on the bowels or a frequent need to pass stool.
- Abdominal issues: There may be bloating, swelling, or heaviness in the abdomen.
- Urinary issues: There may be problems empty the bladder fully or having frequent urination.
- Hormonal abnormalities: Rarely, the body produces abnormal amount of hormones.
A cyst can be found during pelvic examination by the doctor. Other possible investigations include:
- Pregnancy test
- Pelvic ultrasound
- CA 125 blood test
- CT scan
Treatment will depend on:
- The person’s age
- Whether or not the person have reached menopause
- The size and appearance of the cyst
- Whether there are any symptoms.
Watchful waiting (observation). Sometimes watchful waiting is recommended, especially if the cyst is small, functional cyst and the woman has not menopause.
Birth control pills. To reduce risks of new cysts developing in future menstrual cycles, birth control pills may be recommended. Oral contraceptive pills may also reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Surgery. Surgery may be recommended if:
- There are symptoms
- The cyst is large and appears to be growing
- The cyst does not look like a functional cyst
- The cyst persists through 2 to 3 menstrual cycles.
An ovarian cyst often causes no problems, but sometimes it can lead to complications such as:
Torsion: the stem of an ovary can become twisted if the cyst is growing on it. It can block the blood supply to the cyst and cause severe pain in the lower abdomen.
- Burst cyst: there may be bursting of the cyst and causing severe pain in the lower abdomen. There may be bleeding.
- Cancer : in rare cases a cyst may be an early form of ovarian cancer.
There is no way to prevent ovarian cyst growth. However, regular pelvic examinations will allow for early detection and treatment if needed.
This can often prevent complications.