Learn About Ovarian Cysts

What is the definition of Ovarian Cysts?

An ovarian cyst is a sac filled with fluid that forms on or inside an ovary.

This article is about cysts that form during your monthly menstrual cycle, called functional cysts. Functional cysts are not the same as cysts caused by cancer or other diseases. The formation of these cysts is a perfectly normal event and is a sign that the ovaries are working well.

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What are the alternative names for Ovarian Cysts?

Physiologic ovarian cysts; Functional ovarian cysts; Corpus luteum cysts; Follicular cysts

What are the causes of Ovarian Cysts?

Each month during your menstrual cycle, a follicle (cyst) grows on your ovary. The follicle is where an egg is developing.

  • The follicle makes the estrogen hormone. This hormone causes normal changes of the uterine lining as the uterus prepares for pregnancy.
  • When the egg matures, it is released from the follicle. This is called ovulation.
  • If the follicle fails to break open and release an egg, the fluid stays in the follicle and forms a cyst. This is called a follicular cyst.

Another type of cyst occurs after an egg has been released from a follicle. This is called a corpus luteum cyst. This type of cyst may contain a small amount of blood. This cyst releases progesterone and estrogen hormones.

Ovarian cysts are more common in the childbearing years between puberty and menopause. The condition is less common after menopause.

Taking fertility drugs often causes the development of multiple follicles (cysts) in the ovaries. These cysts most often go away after a woman's period, or after a pregnancy.

Functional ovarian cysts are not the same as ovarian tumors or cysts due to hormone-related conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome.

What are the symptoms of Ovarian Cysts?

Ovarian cysts often cause no symptoms.

An ovarian cyst is more likely to cause pain if it:

  • Becomes large
  • Bleeds
  • Breaks open
  • Interferes with the blood supply to the ovary
  • Is twisted or causes twisting (torsion) of the ovary

Symptoms of ovarian cysts can also include:

  • Bloating or swelling in the abdomen
  • Pain during bowel movements
  • Pain in the pelvis shortly before or after beginning a menstrual period
  • Pain with intercourse or pelvic pain during movement
  • Pelvic pain -- constant, dull aching
  • Sudden and severe pelvic pain, often with nausea and vomiting (may be a sign of torsion or twisting of the ovary on its blood supply, or rupture of a cyst with internal bleeding)

Changes in menstrual periods are not common with follicular cysts. These are more common with corpus luteum cysts. Spotting or bleeding may occur with some cysts.

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What are the current treatments for Ovarian Cysts?

Functional ovarian cysts often do not need treatment. They often go away on their own within 8 to 12 weeks.

If you have frequent ovarian cysts, your provider may prescribe birth control pills (oral contraceptives). These pills may reduce the risk of developing new cysts. Birth control pills do not decrease the size of current cysts.

You may need surgery to remove the cyst or ovary to make sure that it is not ovarian cancer. Surgery is more likely to be needed for:

  • Complex ovarian cysts that do not go away
  • Cysts that are causing symptoms and do not go away
  • Cysts that are increasing in size
  • Simple ovarian cysts that are larger than 10 centimeters
  • Women who are near menopause or past menopause

Types of surgery for ovarian cysts include:

  • Exploratory laparotomy
  • Pelvic laparoscopy

You may need other treatments if you have polycystic ovary syndrome or another disorder that can cause cysts.

Who are the top Ovarian Cysts Local Doctors?
Highly rated in
Obstetrics and Gynecology

University of California San Francisco Health System

PCOS Clinic

499 Illinois St 
San Francisco, CA 94158

Heather Huddleston is an Obstetrics and Gynecologist in San Francisco, California. Dr. Huddleston has been practicing medicine for over 24 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Ovarian Cysts. She is also highly rated in 6 other conditions, according to our data. Her top areas of expertise are Ovarian Cysts, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Infertility, and Asherman Syndrome. She is board certified in Obstetrics/gynecology and Endocrinology and licensed to treat patients in California.

Highly rated in

Monash University

School Of Public Health And Preventive Medicine, Monash University 
Melbourne, VIC, AU 

Helena Teede is in Melbourne, Australia. Teede is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Ovarian Cysts. She is also highly rated in 25 other conditions, according to our data. Her top areas of expertise are Ovarian Cysts, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Infertility, and Obesity.

Learn about our expert tiers
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Highly rated in
Obstetrics and Gynecology
Reproductive Medicine

Penn State Health

Penn State Health Obstetrics And Gynecology

35 Hope Dr 
Hershey, PA 17033

Richard Legro is an Obstetrics and Gynecologist and a Reproductive Medicine doctor in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Dr. Legro has been practicing medicine for over 35 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Ovarian Cysts. He is also highly rated in 6 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Ovarian Cysts, Infertility, and Ovarian Overproduction of Androgens. He is board certified in Obstetrics/gynecology and licensed to treat patients in Pennsylvania. Dr. Legro is currently accepting new patients.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Ovarian Cysts?

Cysts in women who are still having periods are more likely to go away. A complex cyst in a woman who is past menopause has a higher risk of being cancer. Cancer is very unlikely with a simple cyst.

What are the possible complications of Ovarian Cysts?

Complications have to do with the condition causing the cysts. Complications can occur with cysts that:

  • Bleed.
  • Break open.
  • Show signs of changes that could be cancer.
  • Twist, depending on size of the cyst. Bigger cysts carry a higher risk.
When should I contact a medical professional for Ovarian Cysts?

Call your provider if:

  • You have symptoms of an ovarian cyst
  • You have severe pain
  • You have bleeding that is not normal for you

Also call your provider if you have had following on most days for at least 2 weeks:

  • Getting full quickly when eating
  • Losing your appetite
  • Losing weight without trying

These symptoms may indicate ovarian cancer. Studies which encourage women to seek care for possible ovarian cancer symptoms have not shown any benefit. Unfortunately, we do not have any proven means of screening for ovarian cancer.

How do I prevent Ovarian Cysts?

If you are not trying to get pregnant and you often get functional cysts, you can prevent them by taking birth control pills. These pills prevent follicles from growing.

Female reproductive anatomy
Ovarian cysts
Uterine anatomy
What are the latest Ovarian Cysts Clinical Trials?
Canagliflozin Administration in Non-diabetic Women With Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
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Comparing the Therapeutic Effect of Sitagliptin/Metformin and Metformin on Biochemical Factors and Expression of GDF-9 and BMP-15 Genes in Patients With Classic PCOS Undergoing Intra-cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
What are the Latest Advances for Ovarian Cysts?
Short period-administration of myo-inositol and metformin on hormonal and glycolipid profiles in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review and updated meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
Metabolic Surgery on Patients With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
Tired of the same old research?
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Effect of artificial cycle with or without GnRH-a pretreatment on pregnancy and neonatal outcomes in women with PCOS after frozen embryo transfer: a propensity score matching study.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date : January 30, 2020
Published By : LaQuita Martinez, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Emory Johns Creek Hospital, Alpharetta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Brown DL, Wall DJ. Ultrasound evaluation of the ovaries. In: Norton ME, Scoutt LM, Feldstein VA, eds. Callen's Ultrasonography in Obstetrics and Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 30.

Bulun SE. Physiology and pathology of the female reproductive axis. In Melmed S, Auchus RJ, Goldfine AB, Koenig RJ, Rosen CJ, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 17.

Dolan MS, Hill C, Valea FA. Benign gynecologic lesions: vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, oviduct, ovary, ultrasound imaging of pelvic structures. In: Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 18.