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Ovarian Cyst


What is an ovarian cyst?

An ovarian cyst is a sac that grows on an ovary. This sac usually contains fluid, but may sometimes have blood or tissue in it. Most ovarian cysts are harmless and go away without treatment in a few months. Some cysts can grow large, cause pain, or break open.

What causes an ovarian cyst?

Most ovarian cysts form during or after ovulation. Right before ovulation, your ovary forms a follicle. A follicle is a fluid-filled blister that has an egg inside. During ovulation, the follicle breaks open and releases the egg. A cyst may form if the follicle does not break open to release the egg. A cyst may form if the follicle opens to release the egg, but then closes and collects fluid. Endometriosis can also cause a cyst to form. Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue from your uterus grows on your ovaries. Some of this tissue may develop into a cyst.

What are the signs and symptoms of an ovarian cyst?

You may not feel anything or know that you have a cyst, or you may have any of the following:

  • Severe pain in your lower abdomen and pelvic area that may be sharp and sudden or feel like a dull ache
  • Fullness and swelling in your lower abdomen
  • Infertility (not able to get pregnant)
  • Late or painful periods
  • Small amounts of bleeding between your periods
  • Lower abdominal or pelvic pain during sex
  • Nausea or vomiting

How is an ovarian cyst diagnosed?

  • Blood tests may include hormone levels, tests for cancer, and a pregnancy test.
  • Ultrasound pictures may show a cyst on your ovary. For this test, an ultrasound wand is inserted into your vagina and guided up toward your uterus. This helps your healthcare provider get a closer look at your ovaries.

How is an ovarian cyst treated?

Treatment will depend on your age, test results, and the kind of cyst you have. Your healthcare provider may wait to see if your ovarian cyst will go away without treatment. You may be given hormone medicine, such as birth control pills. This medicine may help to control your periods, shrink a cyst, and prevent new cysts from forming. You may need surgery to have the cyst removed.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You are too weak or dizzy to stand up.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have severe abdominal pain. The pain may be sharp and sudden.
  • You have a fever.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your periods are early, late, or more painful than usual.
  • You have bleeding from your vagina that is not your period.
  • You have abdominal pain all the time.
  • Your abdomen is swollen.
  • You have feelings of fullness, pressure, or discomfort in your abdomen.
  • You have trouble urinating or emptying your bladder completely.
  • You have pain during intercourse.
  • You are losing weight without trying.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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