Accessibility Tools

Ovarian Cysts

What are Ovarian Cysts?

Ovarian cysts are sacs filled with fluid that form inside or on the ovaries. Ovarian cysts are very common and often don't have any symptoms. They are usually harmless and may disappear without treatment.

Types of Ovarian Cysts

Functional cysts are the most common type of ovarian cyst, which are formed during the menstrual cycle. Functional cysts are usually benign. The two most common types of benign cysts include:

Follicular Cysts: The follicle is the sac in which an egg grows and matures. Upon maturation, the follicle breaks and releases an egg every month.  Follicular cysts form when the follicle does not break open to release the egg.

Corpus Luteum Cysts: When the follicle sac does not dissolve after the egg is released, additional fluids accumulate inside the sac. This results in the formation of corpus luteum cysts.

Some women develop polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition in which the ovaries contain multiple cysts.  Polycystic ovarian syndrome may contribute to infertility.

Malignant cysts are rare and are more common in older women. 


Common causes of ovarian cysts include:

  • Endometriosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Hormonal problems
  • Severe pelvic infections 
  • Genetics


Most ovarian cysts don't cause any symptoms. If there are symptoms, they may include:

  • Pressure
  • Bloating
  • Swelling
  • Pain in the lower abdomen

Other less common symptoms include:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain in the lower back and thighs
  • Trouble emptying the bladder completely
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Weight gain
  • Pain during your period
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Breast tenderness
  • Urinary urgency


Your doctor will diagnose ovarian cysts by performing a pelvic examination to identify any swelling on the ovaries. Additionally, ultrasound may be ordered to help detect the location, shape, size, and mass of the cyst. A pregnancy test helps rule out pregnancy, and hormone levels are tested for any hormone-related problems. Your doctor may also order a blood test to help identify cysts that have a particularly increased risk of cancer.


In many cases, ovarian cysts disappear without treatment. Treatment is recommended when cysts do not go away on their own or grow larger. Often birth control pills are the first line of treatment recommended by your doctor. Oral contraceptive pills are prescribed to stop ovulation and the formation of new cysts. They may also reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.


If conservative treatment options are not successful, your doctor may recommend laparoscopic surgery to remove the cyst. This procedure involves making a tiny incision near your navel and removing the cyst by inserting a small instrument into your abdomen.

If a high suspicion for cancer is present, your doctor may refer you to gynecologic oncologist.

Related Topics