An ovarian cyst is a small sac that is filled with fluid. Ovarian cysts can form anywhere on or around the ovary, but they are most commonly seen within the ovaries. The cysts typically form during ovulation.
In most cases, ovarian cysts are not harmful. Malignant cysts (cancerous cysts), while quite rare, do exist. Therefore, any and all cysts need to be checked by the patient’s OB/GYN.
Follicle cysts grow when a follicle fails to release its egg. The follicle will then continue its growth with the trapped egg inside it until it has swollen into a cyst. Most follicle cysts disappear on their own within a few months. Corpus luteum cysts occur when the follicle releases its egg, but the sac that held the egg never shrinks; instead, it seals. Inside that resealed sac, fluid buildup can cause the cyst to grow quite large. In many cases, corpus luteum cysts resolve on their own in a couple of weeks. Other, less common types of ovarian cysts include those caused by endometriosis. These cysts may not go away on their own, and if they cause pain or other issues, removal may be needed. Cancerous cysts are the least common kind of ovarian cysts.
Many ovarian cysts cause no symptoms at all, and in fact, many women have them without being aware of them until a pelvic exam or another testing is performed. However, some ovarian cysts can cause symptoms such as pressure in the pelvic area, bloating in the abdominal and pelvic areas, abdominal pain, painful sexual intercourse, increased pain during menstruation, vaginal bleeding outside of menstruation, sudden unexplained weight gain, and increased the frequency of urination. Other symptoms are also possible, so patients should talk to the doctor about any new problems they have to get the most accurate diagnosis and best treatment.