An ovarian cyst is a relatively common disease that mainly affects women in their reproductive age. By a cyst it is meant a cavity or a pouch filled with fluid, which occurs most frequently due to increased exposure to certain hormones. Most ovarian cysts are harmless, but some can cause unpleasant complications as bleeding or pain. A special condition is polycystic ovarian syndrome, which can result in miscarriage or infertility in women.
An ovary is a female gonad. It is a pair organ that is stored in the abdomen. The ovaries are located on both sides of the uterus. By size they are similar to walnuts and they produce female gametes, eggs and female sex hormones, estrogens and progestogens. During sexual maturity ideally once a month an egg is released and an ovarian cycle begins. The egg grows in a sac called a follicle until the female hormone estrogen directs the termination of its maturation and directs the uterus to prepare for egg implantation. After that the follicle bursts and releases the egg, which is referred to as ovulation. The released egg then travels down the fallopian tube. The endometrium thickens and prepares for a possible pregnancy. However, if the egg is not fertilized in the fallopian tube by male gametes, sperm it is disposed along with the uterine lining, which is known as the menstrual cycle or bleeding. If the follicle does not burst and the egg does not release, the follicle grows further and accumulates fluid. This leads to cysts.
Cause of ovarian cysts
The size of ovarian cysts varies from a small knot to the size of an orange. Usually, most cysts appear for some time and disappear by themselves and do not require further treatment. Some, however, cause problems such as bleeding and pain. If the cyst is larger than 5 cm it should be removed. Ovarian cysts affect women of any age, but appear more likely after childbirth. If the cysts are formed during ovulation when the mature egg is released from the follicle, they are always benign. They are called functional cysts and among them belong follicular cyst and corpus luteum cyst.
Follicular cyst of ovary
Follicular cysts are the most common ovarian cysts. They probably appear as a result of the increased activity of the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). The follicle does not burst and continues to grow and accumulates fluid. A large cyst up to 6 cm can grow. Generally a follicular cyst appears on the ovary in the middle of the menstrual cycle and disappears without symptoms within a few months. If it tears or ruptures, the woman may feel a severe sharp pain on the affected ovary. Follicular cyst of the ovary is usually discovered on ultrasound. The doctor must monitor it closely and also make sure it disappears. If the cyst does not disappear, it is surgically removed.
Corpus luteum cyst
The second functional ovarian cyst is a corpus luteum cyst. It appears after the release of the egg from the follicle. It changes in to corpus luteum and produces a large amount of female sex hormones, which prepare the body to attach a fertilized egg and for pregnancy. If this does not happen, normally the corpus luteum disappears. If, however, blood or fluid accumulates in the corpus luteum it enlarges and can develop in to an ovarian cyst. Usually the corpus luteum cyst does not cause any problems and it disappears in about three months. However, if it bursts, massive bleeding occurs. It is a medical emergency and must be addressed immediately.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome stands for enlarged ovaries with a large number of small cysts. This condition can be found in healthy women or women with hormonal disorders. The polycystic ovarian syndrome is a disease that includes polycystic ovaries, as well as other symptoms and abnormalities. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is quite a common hormonal disorder that affects women in their reproductive age. It is characterized by irregularities in the menstrual cycle, and overproduction of male sex hormones. Disturbances in the menstrual cycle are often accompanied by anovulation, which means for a woman an increased incidence of miscarriage, complications related with pregnancy or infertility. Increased production of male sex hormones leads to the growth of hair in areas typical for men (upper lip, chin, face, chest and lower abdomen) (hirsutism) and the development of acne. Polycystic ovary syndrome is associated with a higher incidence of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol levels. Treatment for this syndrome includes hormonal contraception, hormones, and a struggle with obesity.
An ovarian cyst can also be a result of a disease called endometriosis. It is the presence of endometrial cells outside the uterus. If they affect the ovary, an up to 10 cm large cyst may appear which can create adhesions with its surroundings and possibly cause infertility.
Symptoms of ovarian cysts
Most ovarian cysts are usually asymptomatic. If cysts manifest themselves, they are usually large. There may be pain in the lower abdomen and pelvis, irregular menstrual bleeding, a feeling of pressure and fullness, prolonged menstrual pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, increased body hair, excessive thirst, loss of weight. If you experience any disturbing symptom, please contact your doctor. Only he will effectively determine the severity of your condition and recommend an optimal treatment.
Treatment of ovarian cysts
The treatment of ovarian cysts is divided into conservative and surgical. Conservative treatment includes hormonal contraceptives, painkillers and medications for comorbid conditions. Surgical treatment is the removal of the enlarged cyst, or a cyst, which causes the above mentioned problems, and it is analyzed if it is tumor-like.