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What is an Ovarian Cyst?

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Ovarian Cysts related image Photo: Getty Images

An ovarian cyst is caused when fluid builds up on your ovary. The National Institutes of Health website states, ʺthis occurs when a follicle breaks open and does not release an egg (during ovulation).ʺ

An ovarian cyst can grow on the ovary or in the ovary. They can range in shape from the size of a plum to a grapefruit. Women generally develop ovarian cysts during their childbearing years. It is uncommon, but not impossible, for a woman to develop a cyst during menopause.

Most ovarian cysts are noncancerous.

There are several types of ovarian cysts. One type of cyst is called the corpus luteum cyst. The other and most common type of ovarian cyst is called a follicular cyst. The corpus luteum cyst contains a trace amount of blood and the follicular cyst contains fluid. If you do not ovulate, you cannot develop follicular cysts.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists other types of ovarian cysts are:
• Dermoid cysts
• Cystadenomas
• Endometriomas

For more information on these types of cysts, you can go to http://www.acog.org/publications/patient_education/bp075.cfm or any of the additional sources listed below:

Many times, you will have no symptoms if you have an ovarian cyst. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), ovarian cysts symptoms may include:

• Pain during bowel movements
• Pain in the pelvis before your period
• Pain after beginning a menstrual period
• Bloating in the abdomen
• Swelling in the abdomen
• Pain with intercourse
• Pelvic pain during movement
• Pelvic pain (constant, dull and aching)

In regards to ovarian cyst pain, pain may occur in the right or left lower quadrant of your lower abdomen.

Also, contact your doctor immediately, if you have nausea and vomiting with sudden or severe pelvic pain. This may be a sign of a ruptured cyst with possible internal bleeding.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, a cyst can shrink on its own over one to three months. If you have a cyst, your doctor will monitor the progress and size of your cyst over a few of your period cycles. If the cyst grows in size, they may order a sonogram. Also, you may be prescribed birth control bills to stop ovulation and possible reduce the size of your cyst. If you develop a cyst during your menopause days, your doctor may want to remove the cyst surgically. Depending on the size of the cyst, you may need with a laparoscopy or a laparotomy.

For additional information on ovarian cysts, you can find key information at these websites:

American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)
(800) 274-2237

Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ), HHS
(301) 427-1364

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
(202) 638-5577

American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)
(205) 978-5000

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), NIH, HHS
(800) 370-2943

International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination Inc. (INCIID)
(703) 379-9178


Ovarian cysts fact sheet | womenshealth.gov . womenshealth.gov . Retrieved September 13, 2011, from

ACOG Education Pamphlet AP075 -- Ovarian Cysts. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Retrieved September 13, 2011, from http://www.acog.org/publications/patient_education/bp075.cfm

Ovarian cysts: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. Retrieved September 13, 2011, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001504.htm

Zaykoski, L. The Symptoms of A Ruptured Ovarian Cyst | LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM - Lose Weight & Get Fit with Diet, Nutrition & Fitness Tools. Retrieved September 13, 2011, from

Ovarian Cyst -- familydoctor.org. Health information for the whole family -- familydoctor.org. Retrieved September 13, 2011, from

Reviewed September 13, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment1 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

There are 3 possible approaches to ovarian cysts with conventional medicine - do nothing & hope it goes away itself, birth control, or surgery. Wait & see is often not an option for you because of the amount of pain, birth control is has its own risks and is obviously out if ttc, so that leaves surgery. Surgery is usually effective, but does also carry its own risks - and of course the cyst can come back again, because all surgery does is remove the cyst, not address the underlying causes that led to the cyst coming in the first place.

Many women have had success with the natural holistic approach to treating ovarian cysts. The idea is to get your internal hormonal balance right (cysts are caused by hormonal imbalance, that's why birth control works) mainly by changing your diet and avoiding particular foods and household products. If you can get this balance right, you can get rid of your cysts without surgery and for good.

September 14, 2011 - 4:04am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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