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Ovarian cysts

Contents of this page:


Female reproductive anatomy
Female reproductive anatomy
Ovarian cysts
Ovarian cysts
Uterine anatomy
Uterine anatomy

Alternative Names    Return to top

Physiologic ovarian cysts; Functional ovarian cysts

Definition    Return to top

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

Causes    Return to top

Ovarian cysts may occur during the process in which an egg is released from the ovary (ovulation). During the days before ovulation, a follicle grows. But when ovulation is supposed to occur, the follicle fails to break open and release an egg, as it is supposed to do. Instead, the fluid stays in the follicle and forms a cyst.

Ovarian cysts are somewhat common, and are more common during a woman's childbearing years (from puberty to menopause). Ovarian cysts are rare after menopause.

No known risk factors have been found.

Functional ovarian cysts are not the same as ovarian tumors (including ovarian cancer) or cysts due to hormone-related conditions such as polycystic ovary disease.

Symptoms    Return to top

An ovarian cyst can cause pain if it:

Symptoms of ovarian cysts can include:

Note: Often there are no symptoms.

Exams and Tests    Return to top

The doctor may order the following blood tests:

Treatment    Return to top

Functional ovarian cysts usually don't need treatment. Birth control pills (oral contraceptives) may help make cycles normal and decrease the development of functional ovarian cysts.

Simple ovarian cysts that are larger than 5 - 10 centimeters and complex ovarian cysts that don't go away should be removed with surgery (laparoscopy or exploratory laparotomy).

The doctor may recommend other treatments if a disorder, such as polycystic ovary disease, is causing the ovarian cysts.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

Functional ovarian cysts usually disappear within 8 - 12 weeks without treatment. Some nonfunctional ovarian cysts must be treated to go away.

Possible Complications    Return to top

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

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of an ovarian cyst.

Prevention    Return to top

If you are not trying to get pregnant and you often get functional cysts, you can prevent them by taking hormone medications (such as birth control pills), which prevent follicles from forming.

Update Date: 2/19/2008

Updated by: Peter Chen, MD, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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