Ovarian Cysts

What is a cyst?

A cyst is a closed sac-like structure, filled with liquid or semisolid substance, that is not a normal part of the tissue where it is found. Cysts are common and can form anywhere in the body in people of any age. Cysts vary in size. They may be visible only under a microscope or they can be so large that they displace normal organs and tissues.

What are ovarian cysts?

Ovarian cysts occur in or on the ovaries. It is any collection of fluid, surrounded by a very thin wall, within an ovary. Any ovarian follicle that is larger than about two centimeters is named an ovarian cyst. Most ovarian cysts are functional in nature, and harmless. Ovarian cysts affect women of all ages. However, most often they occur during a woman's childbearing years. And most of them are not cancerous. Women who are past menopause (ages 50¬–70) with ovarian cysts have a higher risk of ovarian cancer. Some ovarian cysts cause problems, such as bleeding and pain. Surgery may be required to remove cysts larger than 5 centimeters in diameter.
At any age, if you think you have a cyst, see your doctor for a pelvic exam.

What are ovaries?

The ovaries are a pair of organs in the female reproductive system. They are placed in the pelvis, on each side of the uterus. Each ovary is about the size and shape of an almond. They produce eggs and female hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone. These hormones affect the way breasts and body hair grow, body shape, the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.
Every month, during a woman's menstrual cycle, an egg grows inside an ovary. It grows in a tiny sac called a follicle. When an egg grows-up, the sac breaks and release the egg. The egg travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus for fertilization. Then the sac dissolves.

Different types of ovarian cysts.

The most known type of ovarian cyst is a functional cyst that often forms during the menstrual cycle. This type include:
  • Follicle cysts. These cysts form when the sac doesn't break open to release the egg and the sac keeps growing. It often goes away in 1 to 3 months.
  • Corpus luteum cysts. These cysts form when the sac doesn't dissolve and seals off after the egg is released. Then fluid builds up inside. Most of these cysts go away after a few weeks and can grow to almost 4 inches. They may also bleed or twist the ovary and cause pain. This type is rarely cancerous.
Other types of ovarian cysts are:
  • Endometriomas. These cysts form in women who have endometriosis. This condition occurs when tissue that looks and acts like the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus. This tissue may be attached to the ovary and form a growth. The cyst can be painful during sex and during your period.
  • Cystadenomas. These cysts form from cells on the external surface of the ovary. They are often filled with a watery fluid or thick, sticky gel. They can become large and cause pain.
  • Dermoid cysts. These cysts contain many types of cells and may be filled with hair, teeth, and other tissues that become part of the cyst. They can become large and cause pain.
  • Polycystic ovaries. These cysts occur when eggs mature within the sacs but can’t be released. The cycle then repeats and the sac continue to grow and many cysts may form.
What are the causes of a cyst?

Cysts can arise through a variety of processes in the body, such as:
  • "wear and tear" or simple obstructions to the flow of fluid
  • infections
  • tumors,
  • chronic inflammatory conditions,
  • inherited conditions
  • defects in developing organs in the embryo.
The symptoms of ovarian cysts.

Sometimes you can feel a cyst yourself when you feel an abnormal "lump." For example, cysts of the skin or tissues beneath the skin are usually noticeable. Many ovarian cysts don't cause symptoms. Others can cause and they include:
  • pressure, swelling, pain in the abdomen
  • pelvic pain
  • ache in the lower back and thighs
  • problems passing urine completely
  • pain during sex
  • weight gain
  • pain during your period
  • abnormal bleeding
  • nausea or vomiting
  • breast tenderness
If you have one of these symptoms, get help right away:
  • pain with fever and vomiting
  • sudden, severe abdominal pain
  • faintness, dizziness, or weakness
  • rapid breathing
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