Do you know what your ovaries are up to?
As one of the most essential organs in the female reproductive system, ovaries produce the eggs that sperm must fertilize in order for women to get pregnant. Ovaries also produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
When your ovaries are functioning correctly, you probably don’t pay much attention to them. But sometimes, ovaries cause problems that move your attention downward.
Those issues can include ovarian cysts—fluid-filled sacs that form on your ovaries. Many women get ovarian cysts at some point, and while they’re usually nothing to be concerned about, they can signal more serious health problems. Here’s what you need to know if you have one.
Most cysts are nothing to worry about, and they typically don’t cause any symptoms. Your physician might even find one you didn’t know about during a pelvic exam.
However, it is still possible to have some symptoms, such as irregular periods, spotting, or pelvic aches and pains, but these aren’t very common. If you do notice these symptoms, it’s time to check in with your physician to make sure your cyst isn’t something more serious. While most cysts are completely harmless, they can sometimes be cancerous, especially in postmenopausal women.
What, Where, When, Why, How?
Most ovarian cysts are generally benign, or not cancerous. Here is how 2 common types form:
There are a few other types of benign, less common cysts:
- Dermoids—Develop from cells that have been present since birth
- Endometriomas—Caused by endometriosis, a condition where the tissue that lines your uterus grows outside of the uterus
- Cystadenomas—Develop from the surface of the ovary and are filled with watery fluid
If you have these symptoms, head to the ER…NOW
Occasionally, cysts can rupture, or break open, causing heavy bleeding or severe pain.
If you have any of the following symptoms of a ruptured cyst, head to the ER right away:
- Pain with vomiting and fever
- Severe abdominal pain that comes on suddenly
- Weakness, faintness, or dizziness
- Rapid breathing
No Womb Woes
Good news: If you’re trying to get pregnant, no need to worry. Most ovarian cysts do not reduce your fertility.
However, there are a couple of exceptions. If you have clusters of pearl-sized ovarian cysts, your physician might diagnose you with polycystic ovary syndrome—a leading cause of infertility in women. Cysts that grow as the result of endometriosis might also affect fertility. Talk to your physician if you have any doubts or questions.
The Truth About Treatments
Because most cysts are benign and don’t cause any symptoms, you probably won’t need any treatment.
However, if you get cysts on a regular basis and do want treatment, your physician may be able to prescribe birth control pills which may reduce your risk of developing new cysts. For very specific instances, physicians may recommend surgery to remove the cysts. These instances including having cysts that:
- Cause symptoms and won’t go away
- Are larger than ten centimeters
- Occur when you’re near or past menopause