5 Facts Every Woman Should Know About Ovarian Cysts

Although ovarian cysts usually appear during childbearing years, they can also occur after menopause and may be indicative of cancer, so medical check-ups are essential.
5 Facts Every Woman Should Know About Ovarian Cysts
Maricela Jiménez López

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Maricela Jiménez López.

Last update: 26 May, 2022

Ovarian cysts are a condition that can affect a woman’s reproductive system. It’s a benign condition that develops in the ovaries, which can present complications when not properly treated.

Although they generally do not pose a real health risk, it is important to know what they are and how to act if diagnosed. Below, we have compiled the 5 most important facts about this condition.

1. What are ovarian cysts?

The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines ovarian cysts as small fluid-filled sacs that form in or on the ovaries. They can range in size from millimeters to a little over five centimeters (2 inches).

Each time a woman ovulates, a small follicle forms in one of her ovaries and ruptures when the egg is mature and ready to be fertilized.

If pregnancy doesn’t occur, the follicle is naturally reabsorbed. However, if this process fails, the cell becomes encysted and gives rise to these foreign bodies.

Women are at risk of developing this condition after reaching the stage of puberty and during their childbearing years. In general, ovarian cysts usually disappear with the onset of menopause, but there are cases of the condition at older ages.

So far, there’s no known cause that reliably explains why they occur. However, several factors have been linked to the risk of developing them.

Among them, the website of the American Academy of Family Physicians highlights irregular menstrual cycles and undergoing fertility treatments. Also, they’re often related to specific hormonal imbalances or other genetic issues.

As with other reproductive system diseases, the symptoms can be confused with those of other more common conditions.

The problem is that they don’t usually appear early on and, generally, the problem tends to be ignored. It’s important to visit the gynecologist regularly to avoid problems.

Among the main symptoms are irregularities in the menstrual period. Abdominal and pelvic pain that radiates to the back or legs may also develop. Similarly, it also causes:

  • Intense pain during intercourse
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Breast tissue tenderness
  • A feeling of heaviness and abdominal distension
  • Pressure in the rectum and bladder

3. How are ovarian cysts detected?

In case of suspected ovarian cysts, a pelvic examination should be performed and checked through ultrasound or MRI for their presence. In case of a positive result, the Office on Women’s Health recommends a blood test to determine whether or not they should be removed.

Regarding treatment, in general, the gynecologist may advise periodic examinations to determine whether ovarian cysts can be reabsorbed over time.

In case they increase in size, or cause pain or other complications, contraceptives or a surgical procedure may be recommended.

A woman with ovarian cysts.

4. Cysts and fertility

One of the concerns that may arise when diagnosed with cysts is fertility. Generally, they don’t pose a risk to conceiving, but, in some cases, they can prevent ovulation from occurring properly.

On the other hand, the size of the cyst can increase and alter the functioning of the ovaries or deform them. This situation could compromise fertility in the future.

They aren’t normal in menopause

A woman in the menopausal stage has a lower risk of suffering from cysts. However, the detection of one could mean the development of other types of problems. According to the experts of the Medical Encyclopedia cited above, cysts in menopause could be a sign of cancer, although it isn’t a common symptomatology.

5. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

A woman's stomach.

The appearance of cysts in various parts of the ovary, a kind of cluster with 7 or 10 follicles, happens to be a disorder known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

In this case, based on MedlinePlus data, we can explain that they occur because of hormonal imbalances. Cysts require more attention and care because they’re directly related to alterations in the menstrual period, infertility, or excess body hair, among other things.

In most cases, cysts don’t cause alterations and disappear on their own with the passage of time. Despite this, it’s essential to undergo medical check-ups to ensure that everything is going well.

Consult your doctor if you have symptoms

In conclusion, the presence of ovarian cysts is more common than one might expect and isn’t usually serious. However, if you have symptoms compatible with this condition, you should go and see your doctor.

Only a specialist is able to diagnose the presence of cysts and determine the most appropriate treatment according to your age, physical condition, and the size of the cysts.

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The contents of this publication are for informational purposes only. At no time can they serve to facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult with your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.