What Causes Ovarian Cysts and How Are They Treated?

May 7th 2016

Functional Ovarian Cysts

Most ovarian cysts are known as functional cysts. These typically form either when the follicle doesn't release its normal egg during the monthly cycle, or when an egg is released, but the follicle fills up with fluid after the release. The second type only forms if the egg sac doesn't dissolve as it usually does. Ovarian cysts are essentially benign tumors that grow on the surface of the ovaries, in the egg-producing cells or in the cells that supply female hormones.

Other Types of Ovarian Cysts

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome have a condition in which follicles fail to open to release eggs and cysts end up forming. Typically, a woman with PCOS develops many very tiny cysts. If left untreated, these cysts can cause enlargement of the ovaries and may ultimately result in infertility.

Benign cysts that form on the outside of the ovary are known as cystadenomas. A similar type of cyst external to the ovary is the dermoid sac, in which the cyst contains not just fluid but also fat and hair.

Ovarian cysts also are sometimes the result of endometriosis; these cysts can be painful. These cysts, known as endometriomas, are typically filled with blood and occur when the overgrowth of the endometrium that occurs during endometriosis attaches to the ovaries.

Treatment of Ovarian Cysts

Most functional ovarian cysts disappear on their own. If a cyst doesn't go away, the first line of treatment is often birth control pills. Because the pills prevent ovulation, they also prevent the follicles from forming into cysts. Even if you are aware of a cyst, if it's not causing any pain or discomfort, most physicians choose to keep an eye on it and make sure it isn't growing or becoming cancerous. Large cysts that cause pain, often due to torsion, may require surgery. Usually, laparoscopic surgery is all that's needed to remove a cyst. Most of the time, a biopsy is done immediately after a cyst is removed, and if cancer is detected, then treatment can begin.


Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled growths attached to the ovaries. While the word "cyst" can sound threatening, in fact, the majority of ovarian cysts are not cancerous, and most women develop them at some point in their lives, usually during their childbearing years. Usually, ovarian cysts are painless and asymptomatic.

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