As an acupuncturist specializing in women’s health and fertility, I see women regularly who are concerned about ovarian cysts. An ovarian cyst is a small fluid-filled sac that develops on one or both of your ovaries. These growths are generally harmless and cause few problems for most women. Occasionally, however, ovarian cysts may cause pain, rupture and bleed or interfere with your ability to get pregnant. Most of the time an occasional ovarian cyst will resolve on its own. In other cases, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, multiple cysts may continue to develop every month or grow large enough to cause problems. In these cases you may need specialized treatment or surgery.

There are different types of ovarian cysts that can develop. A follicular cyst develops when ovulation does not occur or when a mature ovarian follicle collapses in on itself. A corpus luteum cyst is considered a functional cyst and occurs after the ovary releases an egg and the corpus lutem develops. If pregnancy does not occur the corpus luteum usually disappears; however, it may fill with blood or fluid and become a cyst. A hemorrhagic cyst develops when a cyst bleeds internally. An endometrioma, or endometriod cyst, may develop if you have endometriosis on your ovary. Another type of cyst called a cystadenoma is a benign tumor that can develop from ovarian tissue, fills with mucous and may grow very large – up to 12 inches or more.

There are a number of different reasons you might develop an ovarian cyst or be more at risk for developing cysts. If you have a prior history of ovarian cysts or have irregular menstrual cycles, you may be more likely to develop ovarian cysts. Other possible risk factors include increased upper body fat distribution, infertility, puberty that occurred earlier than 11 years old, low thyroid function, a hormonal imbalance or the use of tamoxifen for breast cancer therapy.

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Many times an ovarian cyst may go undetected because it causes no symptoms or problems whatsoever. Some of the common symptoms for ovarian cysts include:

  • Lower abdominal or pelvic pain that comes and goes; the pain may be sudden, severe or sharp in nature
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Pelvic pressure or lower abdominal fullness
  • Pelvic pain during your period that is long-term and may also be felt in your lower back
  • Pelvic pain after intercourse or exercise
  • Pressure or discomfort with urination or having a bowel movement
  • Spotting between menstrual cycles, with or without vaginal pain
  • Difficulty getting pregnant

Reasons to seek medical care
If you are concerned about the possibility of having ovarian cysts you may want to consult your doctor for further evaluation and to help ease your mind. However, certain symptoms may require more immediate medical care. Consult your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms especially if in conjunction with one or more of the previous mentioned symptoms:

  • Fever
  • New, worsening or abnormal pelvic pain or pressure
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Anemia or extreme pale complexion
  • Abnormally irregular or heavy menstruation
  • Swelling in your abdomen
  • Increased facial hair
  • A noticeable or palpable mass in your abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss

Visit your nearest emergency room right away if you experience:

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