An ovarian cyst is a sac filled with fluid that forms on or inside of an ovary.
For more information about other causes of cysts on or near the ovaries, see also:
Dermoid cyst Ectopic pregnancy Endometriosis Ovarian cancer Polycystic ovary syndrome
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Each month during your menstrual cycle, a follicle grows on your ovary. A follicle is where an egg is developing. Most months, an egg is released from this follicle. This is called ovulation. If the follicle fails to break open and release an egg, the fluid stays in the follicle and forms a
Another type of cyst occurs after an egg has been released from a follicle. This is called a corpus luteum cyst. Such cysts often contain a small amount of blood.
Taking fertility drugs can cause a condition in which multiple large cysts are formed on the ovaries. This is called
Ovarian cysts often cause no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they are typically pain or a late period.
An ovarian cyst is more likely to cause pain if it:
Interferes with the blood supply to the ovary
Is bumped during sexual intercourse
Is twisted or causes twisting (torsion) of the Fallopian tube
Symptoms of ovarian cysts can include:
- Bloating or swelling in the abdomen
- Pain during bowel movements
- Pain in the pelvis shortly before or after beginning a menstrual period
- Pain with intercourse or pelvic pain during movement
- Pelvic pain — constant, dull aching
- Sudden and severe pelvic pain, often with nausea and vomiting, may be a sign of torsion or twisting of the ovary on its blood supply, or rupture of a cyst with internal bleeding
Signs and tests
Your doctor or nurse may discover a cyst during a pelvic exam, or when you have an ultrasound test for another reason.
Ultrasound may be done to diagnose a cyst. Your doctor or nurse may want to check you again in 6 weeks to make sure it is gone.
Other imaging tests that may be done when needed include:
- Doppler flow studies
The following blood tests may be done:
Ca-125 test, to look for possible cancer if you have an abnormal ultrasound or are in menopause
Hormone levels (such as
LH, FSH, estradiol, and testosterone) Pregnancy test(Serum HCG)
Functional ovarian cysts often don’t need treatment. They usually go away on their own within 8 – 12 weeks.
If you have frequent cysts, your doctor or nurse may prescribe birth control pills (oral contraceptives). These medicines may reduce the risk of new ovarian cysts. Birth control pills do not decrease the size of current cysts.
Surgery to remove the cyst or ovary may be needed to make sure it isn’t ovarian cancer. Surgery is more likely to be needed for:
- Complex ovarian cysts that don’t go away
- Cysts that are causing symptoms and do not go away
- Simple ovarian cysts that are larger than 5 – 10 centimeters
- Women who are menopausal or near menopause
Types of surgery for ovarian cysts include:
laparoscopyto remove the cyst or the ovary
Other treatments may be recommend if you have polycystic ovary syndrome or another disorder that can cause cysts.
Cysts in women who are still having periods are more likely to go away. There is a higher risk of cancer in women who are postmenopausal.
Show signs of changes that could be cancer
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:
- You have symptoms of an ovarian cyst
- You have severe pain
- You have bleeding that is not normal for you
Also call for an appointment if the following symptoms have been present on most days for at least 2 weeks:
- Getting full quickly when eating
- Losing your appetite
- Losing weight without trying
If you are not trying to get pregnant and you often get functional cysts, you can prevent them by taking hormone medications (such as birth control pills), which prevent follicles from growing.