Many ovarian cysts are symptomless and resolve on their own, but some become problematic. In some cases, ovarian cysts can impact a woman's fertility. Which ovarian cysts can interfere with fertility, and which don't? What are the symptoms every woman needs to be on the look-out for?
Functional ovarian cysts
Functional cysts are the most common ovarian cysts. Usually affecting women in their reproductive years, these cysts do not impact fertility negatively. They come in two types follicular cysts and corpus luteum cysts. A follicular cyst can form if a developing egg follicle did not mature and go on to release an egg. These cysts tend to disappear within three months, and actually go away much sooner than that in most cases.
A corpus luteum cyst can form out of the body that is left behind after a follicle ruptures and releases an egg. This body is usually reabsorbed by the body, and when that doesn't happen it can close back up, locking fluid inside. These cysts do, occasionally, stick around, grow, or produce pain. Most go away on their own, however. Many women will develop functional ovarian cysts without ever being aware of their presence. When they are found, they can actually show that your menstrual cycle is functioning normally and can be taken as an indication that you are most probably fertile.
Cystadenomas are cysts filled with watery fluid or mucus. These cysts occasionally become cancerous, though they are benign in the vast majority of cases. Despite that, cystadenomas can grow quite large and definitely need treatment. These cysts grow from the surface of the ovary, and do not affect a woman's fertility but they do require a removal procedure and might therefore cause you to pause your efforts to try to conceive a baby.
Dermoid cysts are an interesting phenomenon. Forming from stem cells, these non-cancerous growths can be quite shocking! Why? An ovarian dermoid cyst can contain hair, teeth, and nails. Sweat glands, and in exceptional cases even eyes, can also be part of these cysts.
The good news is that dermoid cysts are not linked to infertility. The bad news is that they can, like cystadenomas, cause extreme abdominal discomfort and pain. You will want to get a dermoid cyst removed. Again, it's not unusual for women to take a break from intercourse and thus trying to get pregnant while they recover from any type of surgical procedure. You should not expect any long-term problem however.
Endometriomas are cysts that arise from endometrial tissue. As you can see from the name, endometriomas are caused by the condition endometriosis, in which the tissue that normally lines the uterus also grows in other parts of the reproductive system including, very commonly, the ovaries. Endometriosis can lead to infertility, and endometriomas themselves are also associated with fertility problems. The good news is that these cysts can be removed through laparoscopic surgery, and that a woman's odds of conceiving increase soon after such a procedure. During the same procedure, scarring and adhesions caused by endometriosis can also be removed. Read more about these cysts here: Endometriosis and ovarian cysts.
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS for short, is a condition characterized by (as the name suggests), multiple cysts in the ovaries. The condition leads to a hormonal imbalance, which can cause excessive weight gain and hairgrowth. PCOS patients tend to suffer from heavy or irregular periods as well. PCOS and its cysts can lead to infertility. As with other reproductive health conditions in women, lower abdominal pain tends to be part of the overall picture of symptoms. Could you have PCOS? By clicking on the link to a previous post about this relatively common reproductive disorder, you can find out more about the symptoms and how the condition is managed. Weight loss is, in overweight PCOS patients, the single best method to achieve increased fertility. Thankfully, medication is available to give you a helping hand.
Do you have symptoms?
Perhaps you came across this post by accident, or were just curious about ovarian cysts. If you are reading this because you have been suffering from abdominal pain, irregular periods or vaginal bleeding between periods however, please see a doctor as soon as you can. You want to know what is going on within your body. Even cysts that do not interfere with a woman's fertility warrant treatment in some cases, and you don't want to be walking around with cysts or other reproductive problems without medical supervision. Remember, many reproductive conditions produce very similar vague symptoms. Without proper diagnosis, it is impossible to know the origin of your symptoms.