11637 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Ovarian Cyst

    (Follicular Cyst; Functional Cyst; Mittelschmertz; Corpus Luteum Cyst)

    Definition

    An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac in the ovary. During the menstrual cycle, it is normal for a cyst to develop. Most cysts are small and benign (not cancerous) and go away on their own. Larger cysts can cause pain and other problems.
    Close Up of Ovary and Fallopian Tube
    Nuclus factsheet image
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Causes

    Follicles grow in the ovaries each month during childbearing years. Each month, in an ovary, at least one egg matures in its follicle. The egg and follicle become a small functional cyst. It makes hormones and during ovulation will release an egg. In some cases, these follicles may enlarge enough to become cysts. They are also known as functional cysts. There are two main types:
    • Follicular cyst—This occurs when a follicle does not mature properly. The egg is not released. The follicle and egg develop into a cyst. This type of cyst goes away on its own within 1-3 menstrual cycles.
    • Corpus luteum cyst—This occurs after an egg is released from the follicle during ovulation. Fluid builds up in the follicle and creates a cyst. This type of cyst goes away on its own in a few weeks.
    Other, less common types of benign cysts can also form from ovarian tissue:
    • Dermoid cyst—This cyst is made up of tissue from other parts of the body.
    • Endometrioma—Endometrial tissue (lining of uterus) appears to be able to move away from the uterus to the ovary. Cysts may grow and become filled with fluid (often blood).
    • Cystadenoma—This cyst grows from cells that line the outside of the ovary. Cystadenoma can become large and painful.
    In a small number of cases, some cysts undergo cancerous changes. The doctor will carefully examine each cyst.

    Risk Factors

    All women who still have monthly menstrual cycles are at risk for developing cysts.

    Symptoms

    Most ovarian cysts do not cause symptoms. In some cases, though, a cyst may become twisted. This can cause pain in the lower abdomen. Some cysts may also rupture releasing fluid into the abdomen. This fluid can irritate the lining of the abdomen and cause pain. The pain may be on one or both sides of the lower abdomen. Also, large cysts may cause a sensation of pressure in the abdomen. Cysts can also cause urinary or bowel problems if they press on the bladder or bowel.

    Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A pelvic exam will also be done. Cysts are often found during routine pelvic exams when there are no symptoms.
    If a cyst is suspected or found, the doctor may do a pelvic ultrasound to determine the:
    • Type and size of the cyst
    • Type of treatment needed (if any)
    Other tests or procedures (eg, laparoscopy, blood tests) may be used if a cyst:
    • Does not go away after several menstrual cycles
    • Gets larger and more painful
    • Does not appear to be a simple functional cyst

    Treatment

    Treatment depends on factors like your age, menstrual status, characteristics of the cyst, and your symptoms.
    In some cases, the doctor takes a "wait and see" approach to see if the cyst will go away on its own.
    If treatment is needed, options may include:

    Medication

    If you have a functional cyst, your doctor may prescribe birth control pills. While taking birth control pills will not make the cyst that you have go away, the pills can help prevent further cysts from forming.
    If your cyst is causing a lot of discomfort, your doctor may prescribe pain medicine. But, if the cyst is causing a lot of pain, it may need to be removed.

    Surgery

    Laparoscopic surgery (minimally invasive approach) may be recommended to remove a cyst if it:
    • Grows larger or reaches a size greater than two inches
    • Has some solid material in it or other features
    • Causes persistent or worsening symptoms
    • Lasts longer than two or three menstrual cycles
    • Disrupts blood flow

    Prevention

    While there are not clear ways to prevent cysts from forming, you can take steps to take care of yourself by:
    • Telling your doctor about any changes in your menstrual cycle
    • Reporting pelvic and abdominal pain

    RESOURCES

    The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org/

    Women's Health.gov http://www.womenshealth.gov/

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca/

    The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada http://www.sogc.org/

    References

    Follicular cyst (ovarian). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated October 3, 2011. Accessed August 10, 2012.

    Ovarian cysts fact sheet. Womens Health.gov website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/ovarian-cysts.cfm . Updated September 23, 2008. Accessed August 10, 2012.

    10/7/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Grimes DA, Jones LB, Lopez LM, Schulz KF. Oral contraceptives for functional ovarian cysts. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;9:CD006134.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.


  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.