The term ‘cyst’ can be quite intimidating but for women, it isn’t unusual to develop an ovarian cyst. Approximately 10% of women are believed to have ovarian cysts, according to recent studies, with most cases being benign, meaning noncancerous, and rarely causing any issues. However, that is not the case for all ovarian cysts. There are also many different types of ovarian cysts that can develop, with each presenting its own set of potential symptoms and complications. The good news: there are a variety of treatment options available and many that you can do right from the comfort of your own home. In this article, we have you covered with everything you need to know about healing ovarian cysts – from the different types of cysts to the potential complications, home remedies, and much more.
What are Ovarian Cysts?
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can grow in or on your ovaries. They are fairly common and typically form during ovulation when the ovaries release an egg. Most of the common types of ovarian cysts are harmless and produce no symptoms, so you likely won’t ever know if you have one unless it is found during a routine pelvic exam. Many of these will also go away on their own without treatment.
However, some ovarian cysts can produce uncomfortable systems and even lead to further complications. For example, ovarian cysts can rupture or become twisted and require medical attention. Although this is a rare occurrence, it’s certainly one you’ll want to try to avoid. So, it’s important to stay on top of your health, get regular pelvic exams and know the symptoms that may indicate a potential problem brewing.
The Different Types of Ovarian Cysts
The majority of ovarian cysts are called functional cysts, which means they develop as a result of changes your body experiences during your menstrual cycle. These are typically benign (noncancerous). However, in some cases, ovarian cysts can also form for reasons that have nothing to do with your period.
The two types of functional cysts are:
- Follicle cysts: These cysts occur when a tiny sac in your ovary called a follicle releases an egg during your menstrual cycle. However, if the follicle fails to release the egg, it can develop into a follicular cyst, which fills up with fluid and grows larger.
- Corpus luteum cysts: These cysts occur when the follicle releases an egg, which transforms into a group of hormone-producing cells called the corpus luteum, and fluid begins to accumulates in the corpus luteum, causing it to grow.
As mentioned, not all ovarian cysts are related to your menstrual cycle. These types of cysts are:
- Cystadenomas: These cysts develop on the outside of your ovary and may contain either clear and watery fluid or thicker, mucus-like substances.
- Dermoid cysts (teratomas): These cysts are composed of various types of cells that can be found in the human body, such as skin, hair, teeth, and even brain tissue.
- Endometriomas: These cysts contain tissue similar to the lining of your uterus.
- Cancerous ovarian cysts: ovarian cancer cysts or tumors consist of solid masses made up of cancerous cells.
In some cases, the ovaries may produce multiple cysts, resulting in a condition called Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This can lead to issues with the ovaries and difficulties in conceiving.
What Causes Ovarian Cysts?
The cause of ovarian cysts largely depends on the type of cyst it is. For example, functional cysts are directly related to changes the body experiences during menstruation. This is when the ovaries release small cysts known as follicles, which then produce estrogen and progesterone and release an egg during ovulation. However, when the follicle continues to grow, it can turn into one of the two function cysts mentioned above. This can happen in two ways:
- Follicular cysts are caused when the egg bursts out of the follicle and travels down a fallopian tube. It never ruptures but it also never releases an egg and continues to grow.
- Corpus luteum cysts are caused when the opening of where the egg came from the follicle gets blocked. Fluid can build up and lead to a cyst.
Some other common causes of ovarian cysts include:
- Hormonal imbalances: Functional cysts may result from hormonal imbalances or medications used to stimulate ovulation.
- Endometriosis: Women with endometriosis can develop a type of ovarian cyst called an endometrioma, which is caused when the endometriosis tissue attaches to the ovary and create a growth. These cysts can cause discomfort during sex and periods.
- Pregnancy: During early pregnancy, an ovarian cyst commonly develops to help support the pregnancy until the placenta forms. In some cases, the cyst continues to grow on the ovary until later in the pregnancy and may require surgical removal.
- Severe pelvic infections: Infections can spread to the ovaries and fallopian tubes, leading to the formation of cysts.
- Abnormal cell reproduction: Abnormal cell growth can lead to the development of cysts such as dermoids and cystadenomas.
Signs and Symptoms You May Be Dealing with an Ovarian Cyst
Almost all common ovarian cysts are benign (not cancerous) and rarely pose any issue. In fact, most people never even realize they have these cysts as they never produce any symptoms. However, depending on the type and size of an ovarian cyst, you may start to experience a variety of symptoms, including pressure, bloating, swelling, and pain in the lower abdomen on the side of the cyst. The pain can be sharp or dull and may come and go.
Now, if a cyst ruptures, it can cause sudden and severe pain and if a cyst twists an ovary, you may experience pain along with nausea and vomiting.
It’s important to pay attention to any symptoms and seek medical attention if you experience any sudden or severe pain. Here is a quick recap of what to look for:
- Pelvic pain
- Feeling bloated
- Swelling in the lower belly, particularly on one side
- Pain in lower abdomen on one side
- Pain during intercourse
- Painful periods
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pressure in lower abdomen
Potential Complications of Ovarian Cysts
In most cases, ovarian cysts do not pose any serious complications. However, some cysts left untreated can lead to further problems, such as twisting or rupturing. This can lead to excessive bleeding or loss of the ovary affected by the cyst. These complications can also affect fertility and, in rare cases, be life-threatening. As such, it is important to monitor any symptoms you’re experiencing and discuss them with your doctor to avoid any potential risks.
How to Treat Ovarian Cysts
Most ovarian cysts are not harmful and will typically resolve on their own without any treatment or medical intervention. These cysts are usually asymptomatic, and cause little or no discomfort. If you are experiencing some slight symptoms, there are various home remedies that can help, such as:
- Heat therapy for relieving cramps
- Over-the-counter pain relief medications for alleviating minor pain
- Soaking in an Epsom salt bath to ease sore muscles
- Drinking ginger tea to help reduce inflammation
- Snacking on almonds to relieve chronic pain
- Using relaxation techniques, such as meditation and yoga to relax the body
- Exercising and stretching can help with managing symptoms
- Using a TENS machine, a device that delivers small, safe amounts of electrical signals to the nerves to help with pain
- Improving your weight can help regulate hormones to prevent the development of cysts
- Drinking chamomile tea can help reduce menstrual cramps
In cases where the cyst is large, is an endometrioma, or is cancerous, or producing painful symptoms, medical treatment may be required. Some options available include:
- Hormonal birth control pills to regulate hormones
- Metformin to increase insulin sensitivity
- Surgery to remove the cyst
- Surgery to remove part of or all of the ovary or fallopian tube
Most cysts are common functional cysts that will likely go away on their own within a few months without the need for treatment or medical intervention. However, if ovarian cysts are causing symptoms and continue to grow, it is important to monitor them closely and seek medical treatment as needed. In the meantime, you can keep track of any symptoms you’re experiencing and use the home remedies for ovarian cysts to treat any minor pain and discomfort naturally. Then, you can inform your healthcare provider at your next appointment to discuss if further action is needed.