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An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms on or inside an ovary. The ovaries are a pair of small, oval-shaped organs in the lower part of a woman’s belly (abdomen). About once a month, one of the ovaries releases an egg. The ovaries also make the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These play roles in pregnancy, the menstrual cycle, and breast growth.
There are different kinds of ovarian cysts. They can occur for various reasons, and they may need different treatments. A cyst can vary in size from half an inch to 4 inches, and sometimes even much larger.
Ovarian cysts are very common in women of all ages. Young girls can also get them, but this is less common.
Many women don’t have any symptoms from the cyst. In women with symptoms, the most common is pain or pressure in your lower belly on the side of the cyst. This pain may be dull or sharp, and it may come and go. A cyst that breaks open (ruptures) may lead to sudden, sharp pain.
Other symptoms of an ovarian cyst can include:
Your primary care doctor or an obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) doctor may diagnose the condition. Your doctor will ask about your medical history and your symptoms. You will also have a physical exam. This will likely include a pelvic exam. During the pelvic exam, your doctor may feel the swelling on your ovary. In women with no symptoms, this is often the first sign of a cyst.
If your doctor thinks you may have an ovarian cyst, you may need tests. These can help your doctor learn the type of cyst. Tests can also help rule out other problems, such as an ectopic pregnancy. The tests may include:
Treatment for an ovarian cyst will depend on the type of cyst, your age, and your general health. Most women will not need treatment. You may be told to watch your symptoms over time. An ovarian cyst will often go away with no treatment in a few weeks or months.
In some cases, you may need to have follow-up ultrasound tests. These are to check if your cyst has gone away or is not growing. You may not need any other treatment.
If your ultrasound or blood tests show signs of cancer, your doctor may advise surgery. This is done to remove part or all of your ovary. Your doctor might also advise surgery if:
If you have hormone issues, your doctor may advise taking birth control pills. These may help prevent ovarian cysts. Taking antibiotics for a pelvic infection may also prevent a cyst.
An ovarian cyst can sometimes break open (rupture). This may not cause any symptoms. Or it may cause sudden, sharp pain in the lower belly. A ruptured cyst can cause a lot of blood and fluid loss. This can lead to low blood pressure. In some cases, surgery may be needed.
Rarely, an ovarian cyst can also cause twisting (torsion) of the fallopian tube. This can block normal blood supply to the ovary. This can lead to sudden pain and sometimes nausea and vomiting. It may need emergency surgery.
Work with your healthcare provider to find a treatment plan that makes sense for you. Keep all of your follow-up appointments. Tell your doctor right away if you have sudden belly pain or other severe symptoms. These may be caused by a ruptured ovarian cyst.
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms in or on one of your ovaries. A cyst can have many causes. They include problems of the ovary releasing an egg, and a variety of health conditions.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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