Recognizing symptoms of ovarian cysts and finding treatments in Chicago
If you have had regular menstrual cycles, you have probably had an ovarian cyst, as well. They occur at some point in most ovulating women and usually resolve naturally without any issues. However, about eight percent of premenopausal women develop cysts that cause problematic symptoms and require medical treatments. The doctors at Northwestern Women’s Health Associates S.C. in Chicago, IL share this information to help you determine when to seek professional care.
Understanding ovarian cysts
Ovulation is the clinical term for the release of an egg from a woman’s ovary, which normally happens once a month. A cyst is a sac filled with fluid. Thus, an ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac on an ovary. A single ovarian cyst may form, or a woman could develop a cluster of small ones, called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This condition may prevent conception.
While functional ovarian cysts can occur at any age, they are most common in women who ovulate regularly. Though rarely malignant (cancerous), ovarian cysts that occur after menopause can be an indication of a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
Types of ovarian cysts
- Follicle cyst – This is a benign functional cyst. A follicle is a tiny sac that houses the egg as it grows. Once the maturing process is complete, the follicle ruptures, releasing the egg. A follicle cyst forms when this does not occur – the follicle remains intact instead of breaking open.
- Corpus luteum cyst – Also a benign functional cyst, this type occurs a bit later in the otherwise normal cycle. After the egg is released, the follicle is meant to shrink. Called corpus luteum, this mass of cells produces hormones to prepare for the next egg. Sometimes the follicle reseals after the egg is released. Instead of shrinking, fluids build up inside the sac. A corpus luteum cysts can grow rather large (several inches in diameter) and may cause pain or bleed, but it usually resolves on its own.
- Cystadenomas – Though less common, these fluid-filled cysts can grow quite large.
- Dermoid – Cells present from birth comprise this type of cyst. It is usually asymptomatic, although they can get large.
- Endometriomas – Endometrial cysts form when the lining of the womb grows outside the uterus, forming a growth that can be painful during intimacy or menstruation. These can also get large or cause adheions.
Symptoms of ovarian cysts
Functional ovarian cysts are most often triggered by hormonal imbalance. Formation of an ovarian cyst is also normal in the early stage of pregnancy, while the placenta forms. However, an ovarian cyst can also be a result of serious pelvic infection, or a tumor growth.. If you have any of these symptoms, please see a gynecologist right away:
- Intermittent sharp pain in the pelvic area
- Sudden acute pain – an indication that a cyst has ruptured
- Severe abdominal pain with nausea or vomiting – a cyst may be twisting the ovary
- Painful intercourse
- Severe menstrual cramps
- Bloating, pressure, or pain on one side of the lower abdomen
- Weight gain
- Dull lower back pain or ache in thighs
- Tender breasts
- Difficulty emptying the bladder or bowels completely
- Frequent urination
- Unusual bleeding from the vagina
At Northwestern Women’s Health Associates S.C., diagnosis includes physical examination and evaluation of symptoms. The doctor may order an ultrasound, a painless imaging test that uses sound waves to identify the existence, shape, size, and location of a mass. Hormone level tests, a blood workup, and a pregnancy test provide other vital information for treatment planning.
In many cases, functional ovarian cysts can be treated successfully without surgery. Pain medications can relieve discomfort until a cyst goes away naturally. Oral contraceptives may be prescribed to help balance hormones and reduce the chance of further cyst development.
For a cyst that is causing uncomfortable symptoms but appears to be benign (non-cancerous), laparoscopic surgery may be recommended. This minimally invasive outpatient procedure requires only a small incision at the navel and two other small incisions in the lower abdomen. The doctor inserts special instruments through these access points to remove the cysts of the ovary.
In the case of a large cyst, when both ovaries are involved, or when a mass is suspected to be cancerous, laparotomy might have to be done. This more invasive surgical procedure allows the doctor to collect tissue samples for biopsy while removing cysts and/or ovaries.
Would you like to learn more about the symptoms of ovarian cysts and treatments available in Chicago? Call 312-440-9400 to schedule an appointment at Northwestern Women’s Health Associates S.C. You are assured of all the information you need to make an informed decision on the treatment path best suited to your situation.