Ovarian Cyst Definition : It is a collection of fluid or a fluid filled sac which develops in one or both the ovaries and is often surrounded by a thin layer.
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What is an Ovarian Cyst?
Ovaries are two small organs located on both sides of a woman’s uterus. Hormones like Estrogen that induce menstruation are produced in the ovaries. The egg is enclosed in a pouch like structure called a follicle. The egg grows inside of the uterus, while the hormone Estrogen prepares the uterus for pregnancy. Each month, the ovaries release a tiny egg that attaches itself to the fallopian tubes in order to be fertilized by a sperm. This cycle where the egg is released in called Ovulation. If the fertilization does not occur, the lining of the uterus is expelled which results in menstrual periods.
An ovarian cyst is often a fluid-filled sac that is an accumulation of fluid. Any ovarian follicle present in the ovaries that is greater than 2 cm is termed as an ovarian cyst. It range extensively in size and can be as small as a bead or as large as an apple. In very rare cases, these cysts are so large that the woman is mistaken to be pregnant.
Mostly all ovarian cysts are benign and occur broadly during the reproductive years in a woman’s life. They are harmless but can cause symptoms like pain, bleeding and rupture. They can affect women of all age groups and as per studies by WHO, approx. 15% of post-menopausal woman are found to develop these cysts.
Types of Ovarian Cysts
There are two main types of ovarian cysts based on the nature of their occurring in the ovaries:
Functional Ovarian Cysts:- These cysts are very common and harmless in nature. They are a part of a female’s menstrual cycle and are very short lived.
Pathological Ovarian Cysts:-These cysts grow and stay in the ovaries. They can be benign or malignant in nature.
Functional and Pathological cysts can be further divided into:
- Follicle cyst
- Corpus Luteum cyst
- Dermoid cysts
- Cyst adenomas
- Polycystic Ovaries
- Ovarian tumours/cancers
- Haemorrhagic cysts
Follicle Cyst :- The egg in a woman’s ovary develops and grows in a sac like structure called the follicle. In cases where this follicle does not break open, the fluid inside it develops into a cyst. It forms at the time of ovulation and can grow up to 3 inches in diameter. Rupture of a follicle cyst can cause severe pain which occurs during the mid-way of the menstrual cycle. These cysts do not produce any upfront symptoms and mostly vanish within months on their own.
Corpus Luteum Cyst :- The follicles often dissolve and disappear after releasing an egg. In cases where the sac freezes and gets sealed, more fluid forms inside the sac, giving birth to a Corpus Luteum cyst. If pregnancy does not occur, the Corpus Luteum breaks down and vanishes. In most of the cases, it is only found on one side and produces no upfront symptoms.
Dermoid Cyst :- These are sac like growths on the boundary of ovaries that contain hair, cartilage, fat and other tissues. It affects younger women and can grow up to 6 inches in diameter. It can be clearly seen in an MRI or CT scan which shows the presence of fat and other contents on the cyst. This type of cyst can cause Ovarian Torsion resulting in severe abdominal pain.
Cyst Adenomas :- These are benign growths that develop on the outer boundary of the ovaries. They may be filled with mucous material. They are very large in size and can even grow up to 12 inches in diameter.
Endometriomas :- In this case, the tissues that normally grow inside the uterus start growing outside attaching to the ovaries. This leads to the formation of Endometriomas. These cysts are usually filled with dark-red or brown blood and range from 0.5 to 8 inches in size.
Polycystic Ovaries :- This condition comes with the formation of numerous small cysts on the surface of the ovary which causes the ovaries to become enlarged. It is common in women with hormonal disorders and can be diagnosed with the help of an ultrasound.
Ovarian Tumours/Cancers :- Mostly all ovarian cysts are benign i.e. non-cancerous in nature. However, there are some cysts that may grow into ovarian cancer or ovarian tumours.
Haemorrhagic Cysts :- It is a cyst which occurs when bleeding occurs within a cyst. This type of cyst causes severe abdominal pain.
Ovarian Cyst Size
The size of an ovarian cyst is variable ranging from a few cm to inches. Some cysts can even become as large as a melon and need to be removed surgically.
Picture: Ovarian Cyst of 6 cm
Ovarian Cyst Symptoms
Many times, the ovarian cysts do not cause any symptoms at all. However, as and when the cyst grows, symptoms begin to show and become sever. They made include:
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Lower abdominal pain
- Irregular menstrual periods- severe pain, less flow, heavy flow
- Constant feeling of pressure in the lower pelvic region
- Lower back pain or pelvic pain during menstrual periods
- Lower pelvic pain after exercise
- Pain or pressure during urination
- Feeling of fullness
- Vaginal spasms
- Untimely bleeding
- Breast tenderness
- Abdominal distension
- Increased blood pressure
- Fast pulse rate
- Insulin resistance
- Pain in the thighs
- Untimely fever
- Rapid breathing
- Pressure on the bowels
Ovarian Cyst Causes:
The following people are at the risk of developing an ovarian cyst:
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Young girls with early menstruation
- History of ovarian cysts
- Patients with hypothyroidism
- Infertility treatment with gonadotropin medications
Which doctor do you need to approach for Ovarian Cyst?
Doctors specializing in the area of female reproductive system, female genital organs and cysts are called gynaecologists. If you are facing problems with a cyst in your ovary, then you must consult a Gynaecologist immediately.
Ovarian Cyst Diagnosis
Several tests are required to properly diagnose an ovarian cyst and understand its characteristics and type. Some of the tests that your doctor may ask you to undergo include:
Pelvic Ultrasound :- This type of imaging is used to study pelvic organs and is considered as the best test for diagnosing an ovarian cyst. It can be diagnosed based on its size and appearance.
Endovaginal Ultrasound :- In this ultrasound, the covered instrument is inserted in the vagina, towards the uterus and ovaries. Since the probing object is closer to the area of examination, this type of ultrasound gives better results. It is a painless procedure.
Laparoscopic Surgery :- During this procedure, the doctor makes small incisions through which a laparoscope is passed into the area to be examined. The cyst is identified and removed or a sample of the same is taken for biopsy.
Hormonal Profile :- Blood tests are conducted to check the levels of different hormones like FH, LH, Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone, FSH and Estradiol. Variation in results may be helpful in diagnosing ovarian cysts.
Serum CA-125 assay :- This particular blood assessment helps in ruling out CA-125, a substance associated with Ovarian Cancer.
Ovarian Cyst Treatment
Ovarian cysts are treated based on certain factors like:
- The appearance of the cyst
- The size of the cyst
- The patient’s age
- Menstrual stage of the patient (Pre-menopausal and Post-menopausal)
After detailed study of these factors and the patient’s reports, the doctor may suggest any of the following line of treatments:
Birth Control Pills
Your doctor may recommend the use of birth control pills to reduce the formation of development of new cysts. Certain oral contraceptives also reduce the risk of ovarian cancer in women. Birth control pills subdue ovulation and production of hormones in the ovaries. The uterine lining develops and is expelled as a direct response to the hormonal effect of the pills.
Anti-Inflammatory Medicines & Pain Relievers
Medicines like Ibuprofen help in reducing pain associated with cysts. They are not used to treat the cysts, but are only used for combating with the symptoms and providing relief.
Upon study of your reports, your doctor may advise you to undergo surgery to remove the cyst. Surgery is mostly required in cases where the cyst is large in size. Some of the surgical techniques used to remove ovarian cysts are:
It is also knows as a keyhole surgery. Two small incisions are made in the pelvic region and one in the belly button. A small tube with a light at the extreme (a laparoscope) is inserted into the abdomen. Gas is also filled in the pelvic area to raise the walls of the abdomen. With the help of the tools, the surgeon is able to locate the cyst and remove it. A biopsy sample of the cyst is also taken to rule out the presence of cancer cells.
This surgery takes a few hours and the patient is usually discharged on the same day. Also, a laparoscopy does not affect the fertility of the woman in any way.
This surgery is more invasive as compared to a laparoscopy and is carried out in most cases of ovarian cancer. A large incision is made in the abdominal wall to remove the cyst completely. A biopsy sample is taken and the patient is asked to stay in the hospital until completely recovered.
Removal of Ovarian Torsion
In rare cases, an ovarian cyst can rotate and cause severe abdominal pain, vomiting and nausea. As a result of this, blood flow gets affected and emergency surgery is required in most of the cases.
Home Remedies for Ovarian Cyst
Most ovarian cysts are functional in nature i.e. they occur during the menstrual cycle and disappear themselves. However, there are few home remedies that can be tried to get relief from the symptoms like pain, vomiting and nausea.
- Heat Therapy :- Heat therapy is highly effective when it comes to getting relief from muscle spasms and muscle cramps. Take a hot water bottle or a heating pad and place in on your pelvic region for 15-10 minutes. Repeat the process until the pain become faint or goes away.
- Epsom Salt Bath :- An Epsom salt bath also comes very handy in getting relief from pain and pelvic cramps. High magnesium sulphate content works as a muscle relaxant and provides relief from cramped muscles.
Fill your bath tub with warm water and add a cup of Epsom salt. You can also add essential oils like rose or olive oil. Mix for a few minutes until the salt dissolves and soak your body in the tub for 15-20 minutes. You can use this remedy at least twice a day.
- Chamomile Tea :- It is considered a good remedy for pain, nausea and discomfort associated with ovarian cysts. It is also a mild sedative and eases stressed muscles. It is also of great use during irregular periods.
Mix two spoons of Chamomile Tea in a cup of hot water. Cover and let dissolve for at least 5 minutes. Strain and add one spoon of honey or brown sugar.
- Castor Oil Pack :- Castor oil clears the body of excess toxins and unwanted tissues. It kindles the lymphatic and circulatory systems which helps in melting the ovarian cyst.
Fold a cloth and cover it with two tablespoons of castor oil. Place it on the lower abdominal area and place a hot water bottle on top of it. The combination of heat and oil therapy helps in providing relief from various symptoms of ovarian cysts. Repeat the process at least 2-3 times a week for best results.
- Apple Cider Vinegar :- It can help in getting rid of cysts caused due to potassium deficiency as it is high in potassium content. Add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of lukewarm water. Drink one or two glasses of this dose daily and follow until the cyst vanishes.
- Ginger Juice :- Ginger induces menstruation, increases body heat and provides relief from pain and cramps due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Blend ginger juice, turmeric and apple juice together and drink the juice once daily until the cyst is gone. Ginger tea is also a good remedy.
Ovarian Cyst Pictures
Browse through these pictures of ovarian cysts, that will help you understand what how they look like.
Affected ovary vs Normal Ovary
Laparoscopic removal of an ovarian cyst