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Considering the facts that eggs develop and mature inside the ovaries and that they play an important role in the female endocrine (hormonal) system, it is fair to say that the ovaries are rather important to women, in particular women of reproductive age. 

Having a cyst — a fluid-filled sac that isn't "meant to be there" — or multiple cysts can therefore sound like a very big deal. However, note that numerous women develop ovarian cysts during their lifetimes and that many not only disappear spontaneously after a few months, but they also don't lead to any functional impairments or symptoms. These women will not even know they have ovarian cysts unless they are diagnosed by chance. 

Symptoms, which include a sharp, stabbing pelvic pain, discomfort during sexual intercourse, abdominal bloating, a more frequent urge to urinate, difficulty with bowel movements, nausea and vomiting, breast tenderness, a noticeable change in menstrual flow and the duration of the menstrual cycle, and in some cases infertility, tend to only occur in specific circumstances:

  • Cyst rupture
  • A large cyst
  • A cysts that blocks blood supply to the ovaries

Types Of Ovarian Cyst

Ovarian cysts are divided into two rough categories. They are functional cysts that develop over the course of a woman's menstrual cycle, which are usually benign and disappear on their own without treatment, and pathological ovarian cysts. The latter are much less common. 

Among ovarian cysts that women can develop are:

  • Folliclular ovarian cysts, which occur when an egg, rather than being released into one of the fallopian tubes to facilitate fertilization, develops into a cyst. 
  • Corpus luteum ovarian cysts, which occur when something goes wrong with the body left over after a mature egg is released. It can take up to several months to resolve. 
  • Dermoid cysts, which contain human tissues usually found in other parts of the body, such as hair, teeth, and skin. They arise from stem cells. 
  • Cystadenomas, which develop from ovarian tissue and can be filled with a variety of substances. 
  • Endometriomas, which develop in women with endometriosis, a condition in which the tissue that normally lines the uterine wall proliferates in other parts of the reproductive system, including the ovaries. 

I Think I Might Be Suffering From An Ovarian Cyst — What Now?

The symptoms that ovarian cysts can produce are likewise associated with a variety of other medical conditions, including endometriosis, a pelvic infection such as pelvic inflammatory disease, premenstrual syndrome, and uterine fibroids

If you approach a doctor after you begin to suspect that you might be suffering from ovarian cysts — which you should! — you will likely be asked to undergo an ultrasound scan after being asked questions about your symptoms. 

Those women who are diagnosed with ovarian cysts will be offered treatment where relevant, or they may simply be asked to attend follow-up appointments to monitor the state of their ovarian cyst(s) as many disappear on their own and are completely benign. 

Women diagnosed with ovarian cysts who have not been able to conceive may be advised to have surgery to remove their cysts, and the same holds true for those whose cysts cause significant symptoms, are large in size, or whose cysts may be cancerous. 

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