• Cigarette smoking
  • History of previous ovarian cyst
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Infertility treatment by ovulation induction
  • Obesity
  • Endometriosis (a medical condition in which tissue that normally lines the uterus develops outside the uterus)
  • Pregnancy
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Tubal ligation (a surgical procedure wherein a woman’s fallopian tubes are closed up, tied, or cut)
  • Tamoxifen
  • A severe pelvic infection
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome

Types of ovarian cyst

There are different forms of ovarian cyst which are broadly classified into Functional and Pathological.

The commonest is functional cysts which are usually not life threatening and frequently do not cause symptoms, disappearing on their own within two or three menstrual cycles.

Functional cyst is so called because they develop in relation to normal menstrual cycle hence is largely seen in premenopausal women.

Pathological cyst also referred to as non-functional cyst is not related to the normal function of the menstrual cycle. They can either be harmless or cancerous.

How big is an ovarian cyst?

The size of an ovarian cyst ranges from less than one inch up to 4 inches. Rarely, ovarian cyst can form enormously large masses measuring 12inches or more.

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What are the Symptoms of ovarian cyst?

Ovarian cysts usually do not give rise to symptoms and are detected during routine physical examination or ultrasound screening for other purposes. However, signs and symptoms of ovarian cyst may include:

  • Lower abdominal pain (pelvic pain) which can be on one or both sides, could vary from dull, heavy sensation to a sudden, severe and sharp pain
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Heavy menstrual flow and painful menstruation
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Vaginal pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding

Large cyst may give rise to the following symptoms due to pressure on adjacent structures:

  • Abdominal fullness, bloating
  • Low back pain
  • Early satiety
  • Frequent need to pass stool, pain during defecation and difficulty mowing bowel
  • Difficulty emptying bladder completely, urinary urgency

What are the complications of ovarian cyst?

These include:

  • Torsion
  • Rupture
  • Cancer- in uncommon cases, ovarian cyst may be an early form of ovarian cancer.

When to seek medical care

For females with confirmed cases of ovarian cyst, emergence of the following symptoms requires urgent medical help:

  • Pain with fever and vomiting
  • Sudden, severe abdominal pain
  • Dizziness or weakness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Abnormal pain or tenderness in the abdominal or pelvic area
  • Abdominal swelling or unusual increased abdominal girth
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A noticeable abdominal or pelvic mass
  • Excessive thirst or urination
  • Abnormally heavy or irregular menstruation

How is ovarian cyst diagnosed?

Following presentation with the symptoms highlighted above and physical examination by a medical practitioner, ovarian cyst is diagnosed and confirmed through ultrasound scan. CT scan or MRI can also be used. However, as earlier mentioned, most ovarian cyst are accidental finding during routine pelvic examination or ultrasound scan for other reasons.

Is there any treatment for ovarian cyst?

Although, most ovarian cyst does not require treatment, nevertheless, the treatment options which could either be watchful waiting, medical or surgical are largely dependent on the following factors:

  • The size
  • The appearance on ultrasound scan
  • Presence of symptoms
  • Age of patient(premenopausal or postmenopausal)
  • The likely cause of the ovarian cyst


This article is strictly for educational purposes. Hence treatment options for ovarian cysts are intentionally excluded to avoid self-medication. Thus, females with symptoms similar to those described are strongly encouraged to see a PROFESSIONAL HEALTHCARE PROVIDER.

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