What are ovarian cysts?

Ovarian cysts are closed, sac-filled like structures within an ovary that contain fluids, gaseous or semi-solid substance. The vast majority of ovarian cysts are benign (non-cancerous) but some are cancerous or may become cancerous over time. Ovarian cysts can vary in size and may occur at different sites in the ovary.

What are the types of ovarian cysts?

Functional Ovarian Cysts are the most common type and develop as part of the menstrual cycle. They are harmless and short-lived. There are two types:

  • Follicular Cyst- Begins when the follicle in the ovaries did not release the egg or failed to rupture and continue to grow into a cyst.
  • Corpus Luteum Cyst- Is less common than follicular cysts. Develops when the tissue left behind after an egg, has been released (corpus luteum) and fills with fluid or blood. A blood-filled cyst is sometimes called a hemorrhagic cyst.
  • Non-Functional Ovarian Cysts- Are less common, and occur as a result of abnormal cell growth.


  • Dermoid Cyst- These cysts may contain tissue such as hair, skin or teeth because they form from cells that make eggs in the ovary. An egg has the potential to develop into any type of cell. Thus, these cysts can make different types of tissue. Dermoid cysts can run in families.
  • Cystadenomas- These cysts develop from ovarian tissue, and may be filled with a watery liquid or a mucous material. These types of cysts are often attached to an ovary by a stalk, rather than growing within the ovary itself. Some may grow very large, and they are usually benign (nonmalignant). However some are cancerous.
  • Endometriosis

What are the symptoms of ovarian cysts?

Ovarian cysts often cause no symptoms. However, depending on the type of cyst you have, it is possible you may have:

  • Pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen. It may be constant or intermittent or may only occur during sexual intercourse
  • Painful period and abnormal bleeding
  • Occasionally, a cyst may bleed into itself, or burst, which can cause sudden severe pain in the lower abdomen
  • On a very rare occasion, a cyst that is growing on a stalk from an ovary may twist the stalk on itself (a torsion). Stopping the blood flowing through the stalk to the cyst and causes the cyst to lose its blood supply that can cause sudden severe pain in the lower abdomen
  • Bloating or swelling of the abdomen that may cause difficulty in passing urine or frequent need to urinate

How is an ovarian cyst diagnosed?

Because most ovarian cysts do not cause symptoms, many cysts are diagnosed by chance during a routine examination. If patients have symptoms suggestive of an ovarian cyst, the clinician may do a pelvic examination and perform an ultrasound scan to confirm the presence of the cysts.

In seldom, cases a CT scan/ Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) might be performed by using a large special magnet to take pictures of the body. thus giving a detailed picture of the number, size and exact location of the cyst. Not all women with ovarian cysts need a CT scan / MRI.

What is the treatment for ovarian cysts?


In most cases, ovarian cysts disappear on their own without the need for treatment. But, if the cyst does not disappear spontaneously, there are some possible treatment options that can be discussed in the outpatient clinic.

Medical Treatment

Hormonal treatment/oral contraceptive may be helpful to regulate the menstrual cycle. They may prevent the formation of follicles that can turn into cysts, and possibly reduce the size of the existing cyst. The doctor may recommend hormonal therapy for preventing future development of ovarian cysts.

Surgical Treatment

If surgical treatment is required, the removal of the cyst(s) will be done with laparoscopy. In exceptional cases, a laparotomy may be required.

The decision will be taken accordingly by your physician on individual cases. Also here, it should be mentioned that invasive surgery should be avoided since that will reduce the ovarian reserve significantly.

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