Many patients will develop ovarian cysts throughout their lifetimes and may not be aware that they have this common condition. Most ovarian cysts will go away on their own. At NewYork-Presbyterian, world-class specialists in gynecology can assess this condition and determine whether treatment is needed. The condition is often monitored over time to ensure that the cysts do not grow too large or cause other health problems.
What are Ovarian Cysts?
Ovarian cysts are fluid or tissue-filled sacs that form on or inside the ovaries. Most cysts are small and do not cause any symptoms. Ovarian cysts are almost always benign (not cancerous). Ovarian cysts typically form when the ovary releases an egg during the menstrual cycle.
Types of Ovarian Cysts
Ovarian cysts are generally divided up into two categories:
- Cysts explicitly related to the ovaries' function
- Cysts related to another disease or condition
Functional ovarian cysts can form when the follicle (the sac that houses the egg in the ovary) does not dissolve after releasing the egg at ovulation.
Types of ovarian cysts include:
- Dermoid cysts - A less common condition in which the cyst contains tissues usually found in other body parts, including skin, hair, and bone. This condition is also referred to as a teratoma or cystic teratoma. Rarely dermoid cysts can become malignant (cancer).
- Endometrioma - This is a type of blood-filled cyst that occurs in patients who have endometriosis
- Cystadenoma - These cysts are benign (non-cancerous) growths on the ovaries that can grow very large
Signs & Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts
Although the majority of patients who develop functional cysts do not have any symptoms, some patients experience one or more of the following:
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Irregular periods
- Pelvic pain
- Pain from intercourse
- Pressure or pain during urination or bowel movements
- If the cyst bursts or the ovary becomes twisted, sharp abdominal pain accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fever and rapid heart rate may occur. These ovarian cyst symptoms require immediate emergency care.
What Causes Ovarian Cysts?
Most ovarian cysts occur during a person’s menstrual cycle. They can develop when a follicle (the little fluid-filled “container” that surrounds the egg in the ovary) continues to grow.
Other causes of ovarian cysts include:
- Polycystic ovary disease, a condition in which a woman develops many small ovarian cysts
- Severe pelvic infection
Risk Factors for Ovarian Cysts
The primary risk factor for ovarian cysts is the natural process of ovulation. This is when eggs come to maturity and are released from the ovary during the menstrual cycle. Other factors that can increase risk include:
Most ovarian cysts will go away independently and not cause any additional health issues. Two uncommon complications are a cyst that bursts, causing abdominal pain and bleeding, and ovarian torsion (twisting of the ovary). This is where the blood supply to the ovary is cut off. Ovarian torsion can have serious consequences, including infertility. Both of these complications require urgent medical attention. An ovarian cyst rarely becomes cancerous.
Personalized Care for Ovarian Cysts
If you are experiencing symptoms or have any concerns related to ovarian cysts, the expert clinicians at NewYork-Presbyterian are here to deliver compassionate, individualized care. Our team will provide a complete evaluation and help you explore the full range of treatment options. Be sure to seek immediate care if you are experiencing sharp abdominal pain or severe cramping, nausea, or vomiting.