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Ovarian Cysts: What Every Women Should Know

I've heard of ovarian cysts, I'm sure you have too. Do you know how they form? Are they something I need to worry about?

Every month, if you're not using a form of birth control that prevents ovulation, one ovary produces 1 egg (occasionally more, which is how we get fraternal twins and triplets). When you ovulate, a cyst-like structure called a follicle is formed inside your ovary. When the egg is released, the follicle bursts. Usually the remaining tissue just dissolves and is absorbed by the body. Occasionally it doesn't, and that's what causes functional ovarian cysts.

Functional ovarian cysts are basically small fluid-filled sacs and are quite common for women to get during their reproductive years. The cysts often shrink and disappear on their own within 2 or 3 menstrual cycles.

You may experience a full or bloated feeling, pressure, or a dull ache in your lower back, belly, or thighs. They can also cause breast tenderness, nausea, or weight gain. Who knew a little cyst can cause all that?

Woman who take the birth control pill or other systemic hormonal treatment usually don't experience ovarian cysts (and the pain that comes from them), because they aren't ovulating.

There are other, more serious forms of ovarian cysts known as Dermoid cysts, Endometrioma Cysts, Cystadenoma Cysts, and Polycystic Ovarian Disease. These cysts can develop from an imbalance of female hormones (estrogen and progesterone). These can grow to be very large (like the one shown in the picture), and can cause severe pain. If found, chances are high that a doctor will recommend removing immediately.

Fit's Tips: If you experience severe pain during intercourse, during menstruation, or have swelling in your abdomen, you should see your doctor immediately. They may prescribe oral contraceptives to help shrink the cyst. Surgery may also be an option if the hormone treatment doesn't work.

Join The Conversation
sigmaration sigmaration 10 years
I have had PCOS (or POD) for years, probably since puberty. But I didn't get a diagnosis until a few years ago. All the women in my family are overweight, and so when I was too, I didn't think anything of it. I had fairly excessive facial hair, but we all have stray hairs, right? My blood sugar was (and is) normal. I have skin tags (another symptom -- little "tags" of skin that stick out, often in high friction areas like the thighs) but I just assumed it was part of being overweight. My periods were always irregular. After an ultrasound, extensive blood work, and a glucose tolerance test (NO FUN), I was diagnosed. A lot of people think that PCOS automatically equals a blood sugar problem, but it doesn't. I also never had surgery to remove the cysts -- they'd just grow back anyway. I take the pill every day to regulate my period. And not to scare or disappoint anyone, but I did have trouble conceiving. I was on fertility drugs (Clomid) for over a year. I finally got pregnant but miscarried before I even realized I was pregnant. I gave up (and honestly, am so happy that I never had kids) and won't try again.
ccsugar ccsugar 10 years
oops I meant polycystic. Can't type today.
ccsugar ccsugar 10 years
I was diagnosed with POD about a year and a half ago. I gained all this weight out of nowhere and stopped getting my period. At that time, I had no health insurance, so I couldn't go to a doctor and I was freaking out. Now I'm taking a medication for diabetes to make me ovulate and the Pill to make me regular, seems to be working good. Still fighting to take that extra weight off ;) I'm worried too about one day having children. But, that won't be for a while, and I figure this diabetes medication makes me ovulate like crazy, so I can just get off the pill and that should work. Fit, you should do a post on PCOS (as I was told it's called, polycystive ovarian syndrome) ;) And how much it blows :(
DesignRchic DesignRchic 10 years
That's great mango!
mangopassion mangopassion 10 years
Design- The woman I know has two beautiful children. I wish you all the best in that area. When I had my cyst removed they didn't know if they would have to end up taking the entire ovary or not- luckily I still have both. I know you can still conceive with one ovary, but I like my chance better with two!
grapefruit grapefruit 10 years
Thanks for posting such important info! This is stuff many of us don't know much about, and I appreciate seeing it here.
DesignRchic DesignRchic 10 years
Thanks mango ;)...My main concern I have is the difficulty I might have to conceive. But from friends I have who also have this disease, they've been able to have children, which is my ray of light!
mangopassion mangopassion 10 years
Design- I know a woman who has lived with POD for years. From what I understand it can really put your body through the ringer, esp. around the time of you period. I hope the diagnosis in you brings some relief both mentally and physically.
DesignRchic DesignRchic 10 years
Thanks for clarifying mango, the blood work done on me was to look at my hormone levels, blood sugar to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
kscincotta kscincotta 10 years
Wow, very informative post and comments. Thanks everyone!
mangopassion mangopassion 10 years
Design- Just to clearify for a dermoid or other type of singularly occuring cyst no blood work is needed. They were able to confirm both that I had a cyst and the type of cyst through ultrasound. They did however test the cyst once the removed it for cancer cells.
DesignRchic DesignRchic 10 years
They'd need to do an ultra-sound to find them, along w/ blood work and checking hormone balances. Some physical signs of Polycystic Ovarian Disease is facial hair growth, rapid weight gain, irregular periods.
divinedebris divinedebris 10 years
i thought that i had one of these cysts and asked my doctor about it and she examined me but she said everything looked fine. i've recently changed doctors, maybe this one will see if there is something wrong. oh, and great post. i don't think women know enough about their own health.
crispet1 crispet1 10 years
Good post.
DesignRchic DesignRchic 10 years
I've had Polycystic Ovarian Disease for about 4 months now. And it all started with a general physical and blood work. Ladies, don't be afraid to ask your doctor's tons of questions!
Butrfly4404 Butrfly4404 10 years
I've had a dull ache in my sides for a doc said it could be a cyst (offered tests), IBS, or something with my appendix. It's good to ask about that stuff, though, because it could have been really bad. I'm still waiting it out...
mangopassion mangopassion 10 years
I had a dermoid, not pretty. Had surgery which was way more painfull than having my appendix removed. It took about a year for my body to begin to be back to normal. I guess your body can be making them for a long time and then just all of a sudden- you have pain or your doc. notices it on a rutine exam. In fact, most people don't even feel pain, although I did. I have read some woman get them up to the size of a grapefruit. This is why going in for an annual gyno exam is important, you don't want that thing in you any longer than it has to be!
vrico2005 vrico2005 10 years
great post! Thanks!
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