Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries. They are common, and most of the time, they don’t cause any symptoms. There are 2 main types of ovarian cysts – functional ovarian cysts and pathological ovarian cysts. The more common one are functional ovarian cysts, which include follicular cysts (this can happen when the follicle matures but doesn’t rupture or release the egg during ovulation, but keeps growing instead) and corpus luteum cyst (when fluid keeps accumulating in the corpus luteum, causing it to grow). Functional cysts are the most common form, and often disappear on their own within 2 to 3 menstrual cycles. Pathological ovarian cysts include dermoid cysts, cystadenomas and endometriomas. They appear because of abnormal cell growth, but are less common. Ovarian cysts often have no symptoms. But if you feel sudden, severe abdominal pain or pain with fever or vomiting, seek medical help immediately.
In some women, the ovaries may look like there are a lot of ovarian cysts on them, an appearance that is sometimes called polycystic ovaries, looking like “string of pearls” on the ultrasound. These cysts however are follicles and not cysts per se. The appearance of at least 12 follicles or more in the ovaries are one of the 3 diagnostic criteria for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
- NHS UK. Ovarian Cyst. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ovarian-cyst/ (accessed 8. August 2020)
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- WebMD. Ovarian Cysts. https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/ovarian-cysts#1 (accessed 8. August)
- Teede H. et al. Recommendations from the international evidence-based guideline for the assessment and management of polycystic ovary syndrome. Hum Reprod. 2018 Sep; 33(9): 1602–1618. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6112576/