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What Are Ovarian Cysts?

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 19 Jun 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Ovarian Cysts; Cancer; Dermoid;

The ovaries are the small reproductive organs that release eggs every month, they are also important for the release of oestrogen and progesterone, essential female hormones.Along with their uses, they are also prone to grow cysts that can be quite troublesome and dangerous in some cases.

How Do They Occur?

The most common type of cyst on the ovary is a functional cyst. Every month as an egg is getting ready to be released it is contained in a small cyst like structure called a follicle. Usually this follicular sac breaks open and releases the egg the dissolves, occasionally this sac won’t break open and continues to fill with fluid until it is quite large.

Normally the fluid in these cysts will eventually be reabsorbed into the body, but sometimes they can continue to fill with fluid until they are so large they are causing pain or discomfort.

Some women develop cysts called endometriomas which are a consequence of endometriosis when the endometrial lining sheds cells that can begin to grow in other parts of the anatomy. These cysts can be painful and can bleed during menstruation.Another type of cysts is called a cystadenoma which grown on the outer layer of the ovary and can grow to be quite large and filled with thick sticky fluid.

Sometimes the ovaries can become polycystic and each month the follicle doesn’t break open. The female cycle continues as normal until eventually there can be several small cysts on each ovary. These can be painful and prevent normal conception from occurring.Dermoid cysts occur because the egg that should be released by ovulation is help in the ovary. As this egg has the potential to grow into a human after fertilisation it contains enough information to grow hair, bone, teeth and other body tissues that can be held in the cyst.

Are They Dangerous?

In some instances the cysts can be harmful. There is a possibility that they can be cancerous or the fluid contained within them may hold some cancer cells. It may be that the size of the cyst is causing pressure or even occlusion to some of the major blood vessels or it may have become twisted.

The cysts can be seen on an ultrasound scan, during a procedure called a laparoscopy in which a telescope is passed into the abdominal cavity, or can show up on some blood tests when a particular substance is identified; this substance can help identify if it may be cancerous.

Signs & Symptoms

Some people can live with regular cysts for many years being unaware that they are there and feeling no symptoms whatsoever, whilst others can experienced a collection of symptoms.The most common symptom is pain especially during menstruation or intercourse.There may be a dull ache in the lower abdomen or back which can sometime become quite acute.Breast sensitivity and weight gain have also been experienced by women with ovarian cysts.

Treatment For Ovarian Cysts.

There are various treatments that may be offered, including no treatment at all. If symptoms are not particularly bothersome and the cysts are not considered to be potentially cancerous then it may be best not to intervene and let nature take its course. The cysts will be re-assessed every three or so months until they have been reabsorbed by the body or have become suspicious or troublesome.

In some cases surgery may be the only option. The cysts can be either drained or removed completely. Removing them may mean the ovary has to be removed at the same time which will prevent the problem from recurring, but can lower fertility chances, but to simply drain them may mean that the sac shell can re-fill with fluid and the cysts can return.

Each surgeon will assess the patient and her cysts individually and decide on the best option then.Surgical removal or draining may be carried out as an open procedure or using key-hole surgery depending on the patient and the size and location of the cysts.

Ovarian cysts are a fairly common complaint and can cause no symptoms or can be life-threatening. If you think you might have cysts always seek advice from the doctor who may want to investigate further.

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