Your ovaries are the two almond-shaped organs that sit on either side of your uterus. They’re responsible for holding eggs while they mature and are released each month. This release either results in fertilization or expulsion during your period.
A cyst, or fluid-filled sac, commonly develops on your ovaries. Sometimes you have more than one cyst, and they’re typically small and go away on their own within six weeks.
Cysts that hang around can be problematic, however. They may cause symptoms like serious bloating, swelling, or pain in the lower abdomen. Cysts also have the potential to rupture or cause twisting of an ovary, resulting in extreme pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Here are four types of cysts that the OB/GYN team at Capital Women’s Care in Silver Spring and Laurel, Maryland, commonly see, and the treatment for them.
Functional cysts are the most common type of ovarian cyst. They result from ovulation, a normal, monthly function of the ovaries for women in their child-bearing years.
Every month or so, an egg grows inside your ovary. It’s encased in a sac, called a follicle. When your egg is released during ovulation — the middle of the menstrual cycle — you may develop a functional cyst.
This cyst develops because the follicle fails to open to release the egg or because the follicle seals off once the egg is released and stays put in the ovary.
Functional cysts very rarely cause symptoms and go away within 6-8 weeks.
Cystadenomas develop on the surface of your ovary. They might be filled with a watery fluid, or thick, mucus-like material. These cysts are usually benign (noncancerous) but can grow quite large and cause significant pain.
Dermoid cysts are made up of cells that can develop into all sorts of tissue, like skin, fat, hair, and teeth. Often, these cysts are present from birth but don’t grow or become noticeable until you’re in your reproductive years.
Dermoid cysts may grow on one or both ovaries and are often quite small. Usually, they stay small and asymptomatic. But if they grow large, you may experience pain in the lower abdomen.
Endometriomas are an effect of endometriosis, a condition that develops when the endometrial tissue that lines your uterus grows outside of your womb. Endometriosis can infiltrate many of your organs, including your ovaries.
Endometrial tissue, whether in your uterus or outside of it, responds to your monthly hormonal changes. During your period, this can cause heavy bleeding and cramping. The endometrial cysts fill with blood and can contribute to the pain associated with endometriosis.
Dermoid cysts and cystadenomas pose the greatest risk of growing large, effectively moving your ovary out of position and increasing the chance that the organ may twist. The twisting is what causes serious pain because it halts blood flow to your ovaries.
If you experience symptoms of ovarian twisting (such as sudden pain, nausea, or vomiting), contact our office right away.
We don’t always recommend treatment for ovarian cysts, especially if they aren’t causing any symptoms. With a watch-and-wait strategy we monitor the cyst to see if it grows larger or starts to cause pain.
If you do have symptoms, you may be a candidate for laparoscopic surgery to remove the cyst.
In some instances, this involves removing the cyst but leaving the ovary intact. In other cases, we may recommend an oophorectomy, which means removing the entire ovary while the other one is left intact.
To learn more about ovarian cysts and their impact on your gynecological and reproductive health, reach out to Capital Women’s Care. Call or use this website to request your appointment so we can answer all of your questions.