What are ovarian cysts?

by Dr. Pranjal on July 10, 2023 , 5 min read

Let’s define a Cyst.

A cyst is simply a sac or pocket filled with fluids. These little spheres are either present on the surface of the ovary or inside it. Usually, they are filled with fluids or are solid by nature. 

Let's go over the biology basics once more to refresh your memory, the uterus is normally surrounded by two ovaries within your pelvis. While a woman is reproductively active, one of her ovaries will essentially prepare to discharge an egg that has been covered in a capsule called the follicle, before releasing the egg into the fallopian tube. The fallopian tubes are a pair of tubes found connecting the ovaries to the uterus. The eggs released by the ovaries travel from the site of release, which is the ovaries, through the fallopian tubes and into the uterus. This process takes about a month. After which, the follicle essentially self-destructs and is absorbed by the body. This is the normal process. 


But where exactly does it end up in forming a cyst? Suppose the follicle does not release the egg from within. The answer is simple, the follicle grows in size and volume and eventually develops into a cyst. These cysts may be filled with blood, and mucous or may remain solid. Cysts can range from a few centimeters to some inches. Rarely, ovarian cysts may reach up to the size of a golf ball. 

What exactly are ‘Ovaries’?

Two balloon-shaped structures known as ovaries are a vital part of the female reproductive system. There is one ovary on the left and right sides of the uterus.


The ovaries have two major functions in your body:


  1. Release an egg about every 28 days as part of the menstrual cycle.
  2. Secrete the necessary sex chemicals (progesterone and estrogen) which are essential for reproduction.


The ovaries of premenopausal women create several follicles each month, with one dominant follicle developing and going through ovulation. Ovulation can cause one or both ovaries to develop ovarian cysts (fluid-filled sacs). 



Most ovarian cysts in women of reproductive age are harmless, causing little to no discomfort.  They need no surgical intervention. Ovarian cysts often go away in a few months, but if they don't, it can lead to unwanted health complications.

Q.) What can I expect if I have an ovarian cyst?

Most cysts are simple and will most likely go away within a few weeks to months. You may need check-ups in order to make sure every part of your uterus, especially the ovaries are functioning as it should. 

Signs and symptoms

An ovarian cyst usually only causes symptoms if it breaks or ruptures. The large cysts are the problematic ones, they are the ones you have to look out for. A rupture is a more serious risk and should be prevented as early as possible. 


If you are a likely patient affected by ovarian cysts, you may experience:


  1. Pelvic pain – This can be a dull sensation or a sudden sharp pain in the lower abdomen,
  2. Pain during intercourse,
  3. Constipation or irritable bowel movements,
  4. A random and frequent need to urinate,
  5. Heavy or irregular periods,
  6. Painful bleeding during menstruation,
  7. Being bloated for a long time,
  8. Loss of appetite,
  9. Infertility and associated problems, 


Nonetheless, most ovarian cysts are asymptomatic- as in they do not cause symptoms and go away on their own. In the majority, these cysts come and go as they please, you should not let them affect your daily life unless it brings about major changes that are unusual. 


Q.) What does it feel like when you have a cyst on your ovary?

The experience of having an ovarian cyst varies from person to person. You may feel:


No pain at all.

Mild discomfort or a feeling of fullness.

Pain that could be described as sharp or like a dull ache.

Discomfort or pain that comes and goes without explanation.

Q.) Can you gain weight with an ovarian cyst?

Yes. Cysts can cause bloating, which contributes to weight gain. Some cysts secrete hormones that can also cause you to gain weight. 

Types of cysts

Most ovarian cysts develop due to your menstrual cycle and fluctuations of hormones released by the ovaries during your menstruation time. 

Functional cysts

Normally, ovaries grow cyst-like structures called follicles which prepare to release an egg once a month.


If a normal monthly follicle keeps growing, it's known as a functional cyst. Functional cysts are usually harmless, rarely cause pain, and often disappear on their own within two or three menstrual cycles. 

These are the most common types of functional ovarian cysts:

  1. Follicular cysts: Each egg cell is normally surrounded by a capsule known as a follicle. If ovulation fails to occur, the follicle might gradually become filled with fluid and turn into a cyst.
  2. Corpus luteum cysts: When a follicle releases its egg during ovulation, it begins producing estrogen and progesterone for conception. This follicle is now called the corpus luteum. Sometimes, fluid or blood accumulates inside the follicle, causing the corpus luteum to grow into a cyst.
  3. Theca lutein cysts: These kinds of cysts are found in women who have been treated for infertility issues using hormonal therapies. Once the hormones are medicated into the woman's bloodstream, they tend to stimulate the growth of egg cells in the ovaries. Cysts may develop as a side effect when the hormones trigger a faster growth time for the egg.

B. Other types of ovarian cysts

Types of cysts not related to the normal function of your menstrual cycle include:


  1. Endometriomas

When cells of the uterine wall begin to grow outside the uterus, it leads to endometriosis. This abnormal growing tissue can get attached to the ovary and form a larger mass known as endometriomas. 


A special type of cyst known as chocolate cysts (endometriomas) exists. 

These are filled with dark, thick blood. 

They can develop as a result of endometriosis.


  1. Dermoid cysts 

These less common and non-functional cysts develop. Contains skin cells (hence the name) and oil glands otherwise known as sebaceous glands. They produce sebum which is the oil that keeps skin moisture by preventing dryness. The excess sebum produced by the cyst is left inside without escape and thus builds up in volume. 

Dermoid cysts can become large and cause the ovary to shift in its original position. Eventually leading to painful twisting of the destined ovary known as a process called Ovarian Torsion. 

Risk factors

Ovarian cyst development is at risk for the following:

  • Infertility treatment- Patients treated with fertility drugs or ovulation-inducing agents may develop cysts as the ovaries are being overly stimulated.
  • Pregnancy- In pregnancy, ovarian cysts may form in the second trimester.
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cigarette smoking, 
  • Hormonal imbalances,
  • Endometriosis (endometrial cells grow outside the uterus),
  • A previous ovarian cyst. 

What are the complications of an ovarian cyst?

What exactly happens when ovarian cysts are left untreated or worse, undiscovered? 


  1. Cancerous cyst

Ovarian cysts that develop after menopause are more likely to be cancerous than cysts that form before menopause.


  1. Ruptured ovarian cyst

Functional cysts commonly rupture without causing any negative symptoms. But sometimes, a ruptured cyst can cause severe pain and swelling. Vigorous activity that affects the pelvis, such as penetrative intercourse, also increases the risk.


  1. Ovarian torsion

Cysts have the potential to get so large that they alter the structure of your ovary, increasing the chance that it will twist. Your ovary might lose blood supply as a result of the twisting and pass away. The symptoms of ovarian torsion include severe discomfort, nausea, and vomiting.

It is best to seek medical assistance if you suspect ovarian torsion to be the case. 



  1. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is one of the main reasons for infertility, discontinuous periods, obesity, etc. 

PCOS-affected ovaries are enlarged and display many tiny follicular cysts. Due to the production of androgens by the body, the ovaries tend to grow in size and develop more cysts. Giving the ovary, an abnormal shape, and larger size. Women with PCOS have a lot of small cysts in the ovaries. Their ovaries produce more amounts of male hormones (like androgens), which prevent the egg cells from maturing properly.


~Studies have shown PCOS to be linked to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes~


These signs stay present longer than they have to and often lead to physical problems like hair loss (alopecia) and/or unwanted hair growth (hirsutism) which can be both psychologically and physically disturbing to go through.



Q.) How common are ovarian cysts?

Ovarian cysts are extremely common, especially if you haven’t gone through menopause yet. Functional cysts are the most common type of ovarian cyst.

Although they are uncommon after menopause, functional ovarian cysts are frequent in women of reproductive age.

Q.) Are ovarian cysts serious?

The good news is that they are not! Most of the cysts are non-cancerous and leave mysteriously as they did appear. Chances of cysts going cancer-crazy are less than 1%. However, it is never a bad idea to keep regular check-ups with your doctor. 


Q.) How is an ovarian cyst diagnosed?

A pelvic exam: 

Your doctor may look around to feel inside your pelvis. This is a basic physical exam that allows them to identify if there are any weird lumps or abnormal changes in or around your pelvic region. 

Blood test:

Another simple test your doctor might perform would be a routine blood test. You will be asked information about your menstrual cycles, any pain you feel or have felt in the past, and any other related problems with your reproductive system. If they suspect any concerns, you will be asked to take a blood test to check if the levels of chemicals and hormones are up to the mark. 




This is a physical imaging procedure that is often done after a blood test or pelvic exam. An ultrasound gives your doctor a clear insight into your internal organs so that they can make a proper diagnosis. 

Essentially, by using sound waves, images of the inside of your body are created and displayed. It helps to identify any abnormalities, the location of cysts, and whether or not they are fluid or solid in nature. Cysts can be markedly identified on an ultrasound. You may be asked to follow up weekly with more ultrasound checkups in order to study the growth of the cyst and devise an appropriate treatment plan. 



  • Laparoscopy: 

A laparoscopy is a mildly invasive technique performed rarely on patients with cysts. It is done only when the cysts are expected to be of a cancerous nature.


Q.) What are the effects of ovarian cysts on pregnancy or on someone who is trying to get pregnant? 


Only certain ovarian cysts are linked to low fertility, whereas others do not. Endometriomas and polycystic ovarian syndrome-related cysts may make it more difficult for a woman to conceive. The course of therapy will depend on the kind and size of the cyst if it is found by your doctor while you are pregnant. However, you could require surgery if the cyst is thought to be cancerous, ruptures, and twists (known as ovarian torsion).


Q. Can ovarian cysts be prevented?

Taking medications under a doctor’s prescription, that contain hormones will stop ovulation and reduces the risk of recurrence of cysts. Make sure to get regular checkups like pelvic exams so that you and your doctor can keep the process under control. 

Q. When should you seek immediate medical attention?

You may or may not know you have ovarian cysts. Many don’t cause any symptoms and may go away without treatment. However, large cysts might cause pelvic pain, fullness in your abdomen, or bloating.


You should contact your doctor immediately if you experience:

  • Severe pelvic pain.
  • Sharp pain in your abdomen,
  • Sudden fever or chills,
  • Vomiting with abdominal pain,
  • Clammy (sticky feeling) skin, rapid breathing, feeling light-headed, or weakness.


These symptoms are signs of a large cyst rupture and required immediate medical help before it leads to internal bleeding or any other major complication.

Can we ignore ovarian cysts?

Even though most ovarian cysts are benign and disarmed, it is still advised to keep a close watch. Cysts can grow over time; if they do, striking symptoms may arise and become problematic. Making sure your symptoms are derived only from these cysts and not any other condition is also required. 


It is crucial for postmenopausal women with ovarian cysts to periodically visit their doctor since they do have an increased chance of getting ovarian cancer.


Q.) How is an ovarian cyst treated?

Picking out a custom-made treatment strategy from many alternative therapeutic options solely depends on a few things such as your age, signs you present with, presence of a cyst or cysts, size of the cyst, and if the cyst appears cancerous or not. 


Patient vigilance

Functional ovarian cysts commonly fade away without any treatment. So if you have a cyst, it's best to wait and see if it deals with itself. Most cysts that arise after pregnancy resolve spontaneously in 2 to 3 weeks. Simple and small cysts have under a 1% chance of surviving and causing problems. 

Ovarian cyst medications

Medications containing hormones (such as birth control pills) are administered by your physician to stop ovulation and prevent future cysts from forming. This allows for your ovaries to release the right amount of hormones into your bloodstream and calm down your reproductive system. 



Ovarian cyst surgery

If a cyst is found to overstep its stay in your uterus, you may need to treat it by completely removing it through surgery. Not to worry though! These surgeries are mildly invasive and do not cause many complications. Depending on the size, growth status and appearance of the cyst seen through an ultrasound, the type of surgery that needs to be done can be decided such as a laparoscopy. Surgery should be performed as early as possible so as to preserve the health of the affected ovaries. 



Q.) When should I be concerned about an ovarian cyst?

Cysts that persist for a while and keep growing bigger require closer monitoring than cysts that do not raise any concerns. Keep track of any symptoms you experience so that you can tell your doctor about them. 


DIY heating pads will ease cramps

A heating pad is a good natural method to ease down the pains and cramps caused by cysts. A hot water bottle or heating pad can be applied to your lower abdomen to effectively calm down the inflamed muscles. 


You can make your own heating pads by placing a towel in hot water or microwaving it for 2 minutes and placing it in a zip-lock bag. Carefully place the bag over your abdomen and lay down in a comfortable spot till the heat of the towel does down within 20 minutes. Repeat this step if needed. 

Almonds are your ticket to comfort

Studies have shown that almonds have high levels of magnesium which may help with abdominal cramps and migraines. A palm’s worth of almonds eaten on an empty stomach in the morning would provide around 250 milligrams of magnesium as a supplement to your diet. 


Ginger tea, a herbal option

Another herbal alternative for the natural treatment of pain and cramps is ginger tea. Additionally, it possesses anticancer and antioxidant effects. Researchers came to the conclusion that ginger consumption may help treat and prevent ovarian cancer after finding that it halted the development of ovarian cancer cells in one study.


To make fresh ginger tea at home:

  1. Peel and slice a 2-inch piece of ginger,
  2. Grind the ginger till its coarse,
  3. Boil the ginger in a cup of water for 10 minutes,
  4. Remove from heat and add flavorings like lime juice and honey to taste.

Ready-made ginger tea bags are also available for a quick home remedy. 


Q.) Can I heal my ovarian cyst naturally?

Since most ovarian cysts are benign, no treatment is usually necessary. Although they frequently have few symptoms, you should consult a doctor if you feel any pain or discomfort.

When it comes to treating ovarian cysts, Ayurveda is a well-known alternative medicine that has shown to be fairly helpful. Women of various ages can take this type of medicine because it has very few to no negative effects. Ayurveda includes dietary adjustments, lifestyle modifications, and natural therapies in addition to medications. Ayurvedic medicines support hormonal harmony in a woman's body, which enhances the ovaries' overall performance.



Vitamins and minerals strengthen the immune system and have the power to eliminate aberrant cells like cysts. Examples of vital vitamins include:

  1. Zinc assists in healthy cell development, free radical elimination, and the prevention of ovarian cysts.
  2. Hormone levels are balanced as a result of the vitamin B complex's assistance in turning excessive estrogen into weak versions.
  3. Vitamins A and E, two antioxidants, shield cells against harm and unnatural alterations in cell development.
  4. Additionally, vitamin C increases immunity and improves the body's capacity to combat disease.

Q.) When should you seek immediate medical assistance?

You might want to consider making a doctor's appointment if the following occur:


  • Your periods are late, irregular, or painful,
  • The abdominal pain does not go away,
  • The abdomen becomes enlarged or swollen,
  • feeling ill and sick to your stomach most of the time,
  • You have trouble or pain when urinating,
  • You experience pain or discomfort during intercourse,
  • You feel bloated for long hours or heated pressure in your lower abdomen,
  • You gain or lose weight without cause,
  • Abdominal cramps accompanied by vomiting or fever,
  • Feeling light-headed or faint and breathing rapidly. 



Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that grow inside the ovary. Cysts, most often appear and disappear with time. Sometimes they can be discovered by chance during a CT scan or Ultrasound imaging. However, less than 1% of cysts do not disappear. These rare cysts may be cancerous or end up rupturing, leading to fatal bleeding and other risks such as ovarian torsion. It is always best to prevent such problems by frequently visiting the gynecologist. 

At Kindly we have expert gynaecologists who will help you detect cysts at an early stage and beging your treatment. Click here to book a free session now.

Most of all, do not panic! When and if a cyst is found by your doctor, it is most likely that it developed as a part of your monthly cycle and is harmless. There are plenty of ways to balance your hormones and prevent the formation of cysts over a period of time. 


However, when you do face unusual symptoms or pain in any part of your lower abdomen, it's best to consult your physician. Once that is done, a medical treatment plan can be directed as per your need. 

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by Dr. Pranjal on July 10, 2023 , 5 min read

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