What are Ovarian Cysts?
Ovarian cysts (also called growths) are fluid-filled sac-like structures that can form in, on or near the ovaries. They commonly affect women in their reproductive years, particularly between the ages of 20 and 35. Women who suffer from endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease or bulimia and take the epilepsy drug, Valporate tend to be more susceptible to ovarian cysts.
There are two walnut-sized organs called ovaries found on either side of the uterus, under the fallopian or uterine tubes. Every month, women of reproductive age produce a small cyst known as a follicle. A follicle is the normal fluid-filled sac that contains an egg that is released during ovulation around day 14 of the menstrual cycle.
What Causes Ovarian Cysts?
The cause of ovarian cysts is related to the type of cyst. There are three types of ovarian cysts and these include:
Functional cysts are the most common. They are related to variations in the normal functioning of the ovaries – they will form when an egg tries to release as it should during normal ovulation. They seldom secrete hormones and last between 4 to 6 weeks.
Follicular and corpus luteum cysts develop from a growth of a follicle of the ovary which grows larger than normal in some cycles and fills with fluid – it does not open to release the egg.
A corpus luteum cyst is characterized by a yellow mass of tissue that forms from the follicle after ovulation. These cysts are generally harmless and seldom cause pain. They tend to disappear on their own after two or three menstrual cycles, and are associated with normal ovarian function.
Abnormal cysts or neoplastic cysts develop as a result of cell growth. In most cases, they are benign and very rarely become cancerous. There are two types of abnormal cysts – dermoid and polycystic cysts.
Dermoid cysts occur when the tissues of the ovary grow abnormally to form other body tissues such as hair, teeth, fatty material, bone or cartilage.
Polycystic cysts develop as a result of a buildup of multiple small cysts which causes hormonal imbalances such as excessive body hair, thinning scalp hair, irregular periods, obesity and infertility. These cysts also increases your risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and uterine or breast cancer.
Most ovarian cysts are harmless and often symptoms do not even occur. Some types of ovarian cysts can lead to serious health problems. Ovarian cysts can cause severe and sudden pain as a result of bleeding into the cyst, rapid growth and stretching, rupture or twisting of the cyst. Although these cysts can become cancerous, it occurs very rarely and if detected early, is easily treatable.
Very often, cysts cause no symptoms and are thus never noticed at all. It is important to be aware of any changes in your body or any other symptoms that may occur. Sometimes symptoms are similar to other conditions such as appendicitis, diverticulitis, endometriosis, ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease or ovarian cancer.
Diagnosing Ovarian Cysts
The diagnoses of ovarian cysts are based on the symptoms, a review of your medical history, a physical examination as well as pelvic exam. Certain tests such as positive pregnancy test, ultrasound, computerized axial tomography (CAT-scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scanning), laparoscopy or CA 125 blood test may be performed.
The most common symptoms and signs that may occur include:
- Sudden and severe pain in the abdomen or pelvis
- Severe abdominal pain accompanied by fever or vomiting
- Constant ache that extends to lower back and thighs
- Menstrual irregularities – delayed, irregular or painful menstrual periods
- Fullness or swelling of the abdomen
- Pelvic pain during intercourse
- Pelvic pain shortly before your period begins or just before it ends
- Difficulty emptying your bladder completely as a result of pressure on the bladder
- Pain during bowel movements or pressure on your bowels
- Increased facial hair
- Nausea, vomiting or breast tenderness that is experienced during pregnancy
Help for Ovarian Cysts
Treatment of ovarian cysts generally depends on the woman’s age, the size and type of cyst, overall health status and severity of symptoms. Sometimes treatment may not be required for cysts as they would probably heal by themselves in about one to three months. Practicing patience as well as being observant is important during this time as there will be a lot of waiting around.
Regular monitoring with pelvic ultrasounds should be performed periodically, especially for postmenopausal women. Hormone therapy such as oral contraceptive pills may be prescribed to reduce new cysts from developing as well as decrease your risk of cancer. If cysts are large, abnormal or cause pain, surgery may be recommended to remove the cyst.
Cysts may either be removed in a procedure known as a cystectomy (cysts can be removed without removing the ovary) or a procedure known as oophorectomy (removing the affected ovary and leaving the other intact). If the cyst is cancerous, a hysterectomy may be performed to remove both ovaries and uterus.
Natural treatments such as herbs and herbal remedies have also proven to be quite effective in there ability to restore the balance of levels of hormones in the body as well as to prevent and reduce ovarian cysts. These herbs are safe and gentle on the body’s system, and also enhance overall health and wellbeing of women. Use Dong Quai, the Chinese herb to promote female reproductive health and hormone balance. It acts as a nourishing tonic, supports the menstrual cycle and promotes hormonal health during menopause and perimenopause.
More Information on Ovarian Cysts
Tips to control and manage ovarian cysts
While ovarian cysts cannot be prevented, there are a few ways to control ovarian cysts and these include:
- Eat a diet that contains plenty of raw fruits, dark, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes and garlic
- Exercise regularly by walking, swimming, cycling, doing yoga or pilates
- Avoid red meat, white sugar, fat, processed and refined foods
- Decrease your intake of caffeine, alcohol and carbonated beverages
- Increase your intake of antioxidant supplements such as zinc, evening primrose oil, vitamins A, E and C
- Detox your body’s system to improve the liver’s function
- Learn to control stress by practicing deep breathing exercises, visualization techniques or meditating
- Keep the lower abdomen warm by applying a heat pack or hot water bottle