Ovarian Cysts

Ovarian Cyst Pain, Symptoms and Causes Image

The ovaries are twin normally almond-sized reproductive organs located on either side of the uterus. The ovaries produce many of the hormones needed for female sex characteristics, as well as releasing eggs during a woman’s reproductive years.

An ovarian cyst is an enclosed sac that can develop in or on the ovaries. Ovarian cyst symptoms are often not noticeable, but ovarian cyst pain is common. In rare cases, ovarian cancer can develop from an ovarian cyst.

Why an Ovarian Cyst Develops

The development of an ovarian cyst usually occurs during ovulation, when the ovary releases an egg. Eggs develop and mature in structures called follicles. If the follicle fails to release the egg and grows abnormally large, it may develop into a follicular ovarian cyst. A follicular cyst usually resolves by itself without the need for treatment. Unless follicular cysts cause ovarian torsion, rupture, or press on surrounding tissue they don’t usually cause ovarian cyst pain.

A corpus luteum cyst develops from the corpus luteum, which is the empty follicle sac left in the ovary after an egg is released. The corpus luteum usually regresses into the ovary unless fertilization occurs. If fertilization occurs, it produces important hormones to sustain the pregnancy. In some cases, the corpus luteum seals off and fills with fluid. Like a follicular cyst, there is potentially ovarian cyst pain associated with this type of cyst.

Other types of ovarian cysts exist, and not all of them are tied to ovulation. These types of ovarian cysts include:

  • Cystadenoma: Large cyst that develops from cells on the outer wall of the ovary. Cystadenomas often cause ovarian cyst pain.
  • Dermoid cyst: Cyst that contains a variety of different tissues. Capable of causing ovarian cyst pain and other symptoms.
  • Endometrioma: Ovarian cyst caused by the growth of uterus-lining tissue on the ovary.
  • Hemorrhagic cyst: Ovarian cyst that contains or leaks blood. Hemorrhagic cysts can cause burning, painful sensations.
  • Polycystic ovaries: a chronic condition in which eggs mature but aren’t released from follicles, causing multiple ovarian cysts.

Inside an Ovarian Cyst

An ovarian cyst may be filled with:

  • Blood
  • Fluid
  • Thick gel-like substances.

Dermoid cysts may be composed of tissue of:

  • Bone
  • Hair
  • Teeth.

Some ovarian cysts reach alarmingly large sizes–up to 6 centimeters in size. A large ovarian cyst, especially one causing ovarian cyst pain, may require surgical removal.

Ovarian Cyst Symptoms

Quite often, there won’t be any ovarian cyst symptoms. The cyst could develop and disappear without detection. Ovarian cyst pain may occur if the cyst twists, or forces, the fallopian tube to contort. Ovarian cyst pain also develops if the cyst bleeds, ruptures or presses against other tissue.

In addition to ovarian cyst pain, ovarian cyst symptoms can include:

  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Bloating and swelling
  • Irregular or absent menstruation
  • Pain during bowel movements
  • Pain during intercourse.

Ovarian Cancer and Cysts

Ovarian cancer tumors sometimes include ovarian cysts, but the average ovarian cyst is benign. Chances of developing an ovarian cyst are higher during a woman’s reproductive years, as both follicular and corpus luteum cysts are tied to the ovulation cycle.

An ovarian cyst is much less common after menopause. However, if postmenopausal women develop an ovarian cyst, there is a higher risk of the cyst developing into ovarian cancer.

To be safe, any ovarian cyst symptoms should be reported to a health professional, such as ovarian cyst pain. Watchful waiting is the most common treatment, as an ovarian cyst will usually disappear within a few months.


MedicineNet.com Staff. (n.d.). Ovarian cysts. Retrieved February 11, 2010, from the MedicineNet Web site: http://www.medicinenet.com/ovarian_cysts/article.htm.

National Women’s Health Information Center Staff. (2008). Ovarian cysts: Frequently answered questions. Retrieved February 11, 2010, from the Women’s Health Web site: http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/ovarian-cysts.cfm.

U.S. National Library of Medicine Staff. (2008). Ovarian cysts. Retrieved February 11, 2010, from the MedlinePlus Web site:http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001504.htm.