OVARIAN CYSTS – What Are They? By Dr. David Choi —
One common reason we see women experiencing abdominal discomfort is because of an ovarian cyst. What is an ovarian cyst? It’s a small fluid-filled sac that develops in a woman’s ovaries. Ovarian cysts can affect women of all ages and stages, but predominantly affect women of child-bearing age. Most cysts are harmless (and painless), but some may cause problems such as rupturing, bleeding, or pain. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove the cyst(s).
You may be wondering what causes these cysts. Understanding the role of the ovaries is helpful in understanding the cause. Ovaries store and release a woman’s eggs. Each woman usually has two ovaries, which are about the size of a walnut and located on each side of the uterus. One ovary produces one egg each month, which then starts a woman’s menstrual cycle. The egg is enclosed in a sac called a follicle. The egg grows inside the ovary until the hormone estrogen signals the uterus to prepare itself for the egg. Then the lining of the uterus begins to thicken and prepares for implantation of a fertilized egg, Successful fertilization and implantation would result in a pregnancy. The cycle then ends when the egg is not fertilized/implanted and leads to all contents of the uterus being released during the menstrual period.
Ovarian cysts are also called functional cysts, or simple cysts. If a follicle fails to rupture and release an egg, the fluid remains and can form a cyst in the ovary. This usually affects one of the ovaries. Small cysts (smaller than one-half inch) may be present in a normal ovary while follicles are being formed.
The vast majority of ovarian cysts are considered functional (or physiologic) and are painless. This means they occur normally and are not part of a disease process. Most ovarian cysts are benign, meaning they are not cancerous, and many disappear on their own in a matter of weeks without treatment. While cysts may be found in ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts typically represent a harmless (benign) condition or a normal process. Ovarian cysts occur most often during a woman’s childbearing years.
If you have are concerned you have an ovarian cyst or have been experiencing abdominal pain or bleeding, feel free to schedule an appointment with us at 561-655-3331.