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Ovarian Cysts: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Updated on July 19, 2010

Ovarian Overview

The ovary is one of a pair of reproductive glands in women that are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus.

The ovaries are the main source of female hormones, which control the development of female body characteristics such as the breasts, body shape, and body hair. They also regulate the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

Every month during ovulation, either the right or left ovary produces a single mature egg for fertilization. 

What Are Ovarian Cysts?

Ovarian cysts are small fluid-filled sacs that develop in a woman's ovaries. Most cysts are harmless, however sometimes they can develop into a more serious situation. That's why it's important to understand how these cysts may form.

Causes of Cysts and Tumors

Ovarian cysts form for numerous reasons. The most common type is a follicular cyst, which results from the growth of a follicle. A follicle is the normal fluid-filled sac that contains an egg.

Follicular cysts form when the follicle grows larger than normal during the menstrual cycle and does not open to release the egg. Usually, follicular cysts resolve spontaneously over the course of days to months.

Tumors can also form in the ovaries, just as they form in other parts of the body. If tumors are non-cancerous, they are said to be benign. If they are cancerous, they are called malignant. Further treatment is required for ovarian tumors.

There are several possible causes for Ovarian cysts, but the exact cause depends on the individual and their medical history. Here are some possible reasons for Ovarian cysts.

  • smoking
  • obesity
  • not having children or not breastfeeding
  • fertility drugs (such as Clomid)
  • hormone replacement therapy
  • family or personal history of ovarian cancer

Preventing Ovarian Cysts

There are a few ways to protect yourself from ovarian cysts, but unfortunately, none of these methods are 100% effective.

  • Keep yourself hydrated, drink at least 8 glasses of water daily.
  • Maintain a nutritional diet.
  • Take a daily multivitamin.
  • Visit your gynecologist for regular check-ups.

The best and most effective method of preventing ovarian cysts and tumors is to be on a birth-control pill like Yaz.

Birth control pills prevent the ovary from producing its egg, thus eliminating the concern of follicular cysts.

Ask your doctor if starting a birth-control regime is right for you.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts

Many ovarian cysts don't cause symptoms. Others can cause these minor symptoms:

  • pressure, swelling, or pain in the abdomen
  • dull ache in the lower back and thighs
  • pain during sex
  • weight gain
  • pain during your period
  • abnormal bleeding
  • breast tenderness

If you have these more severe symptoms, contact your gynecologist immediately:

  • pain with fever and vomiting
  • sudden, severe abdominal pain
  • faintness, dizziness, or weakness
  • rapid breathing

Ovary Information and Supplements

Treatments for Ovarian Cysts

Most ovarian cysts resolve themselves by rupturing and dissolving in your body. However; there are cases that require further attention, such as hormone therapy or even surgery.

If you do have a cyst that won't resolve itself, your doctor may prescribe birth-control pills to reduce the size of the cyst, and possibly even eliminate it all together.

If this does not work, surgery will be required to remove the cystic mass. Laproscopy is the easiest and least invasive surgery to remove a small ovarian cyst. A larger incision may be required to remove the larger masses.

Large ovarian cysts and tumors, if left untreated, may continue to grow and become increasingly painful. In extreme cases, cysts can twist around the ovary, causing unrepairable damage to the effected ovary. This was my personal experience.

My case was somewhat rare, considering my age, only 18, and the size of the cyst, 13 centimeters, comparable to the size of a grapefruit or softball. At that size, the symptoms are severe and extremely painful. After a few months on birth control to try to reduce the size, I had a laproscopic surgery to remove the cyst, along with my left ovary and fallopian tube.

Make sure that you visit your gynecologist annually for early detection and treatment of ovarian cysts. Ask your doctor about preventative measures such as birth control to help protect you and your ovaries from situations like mine. God Bless,

~ Laura


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    • profile image

      In His Light 6 years ago

      Excellent information to share. Sorry to have read that you went through that and by the grace of God this article will HELP many others to save them from what you had to go through. Thank You for your boldness and compassion on such a touchy subject. Your an Inspiration for many. God Bless you!!!

    • cvanthul profile image

      cvanthul 6 years ago from Florida

      Excellent hub, excellent information. I had one at 23 which ended up resolving itself (thankfully) with the help of birth control pills. It's not something I would have thought to write about, but In His Light is right, this hub will help many women. Kudos to you for writing it!

    • lauralolita profile image

      lauralolita 6 years ago from Florida

      Thank you to you both! I really appreciate the kind words. I hope my information and experience can help educate women about the importance of regular gynecological exams. I know that would've saved me a hold lot of heartache. Well thanks again and God Bless!

      ~ Laura

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