Ovarian Cysts: Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

The ovaries are female reproductive organs. Women have two ovaries in the lower abdomen on each side of the uterus.

Ovaries play a role in producing eggs for reproduction and hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. These hormones affect women's breast growth, body shape, and body hair. They also aid in regulating the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

What are ovarian cysts?

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form in an ovary or on the surface of an ovary. The development of ovarian cysts is common for women, especially those who are pregnant or not at the menopause stage yet.

They tend to present no harm or discomfort and will often disappear without the need for treatment within a few months.

However, these ovarian cysts can become an issue if they do not go away, grow, or get ruptured. It can be extremely painful, and the rupturing can cause damage to blood vessels. There is a possibility of developing cancer, but that has proven to be rather rare.

What are the types of ovarian cysts?

The two prominent ovarian cysts are follicle cysts and corpus luteum cysts. These types are not benign to women, meaning they are not cancerous.

1. Follicle cysts

Follicles are cyst-like structures that grow in the ovaries every month.

When a woman is in the middle of the menstrual cycle, the egg exits the follicle and goes down the fallopian tube. If the follicles fail to release the egg and continues to grow, it becomes a follicle cyst. Follicle cysts usually go away in around one to three months.

2. Corpus letuem cysts

When a follicle breaks open and releases the egg, it begins producing the hormones like estrogen and progesterone.

At this stage, it is known as the corpus luteum. The follicle sacs are meant to dissolve and shrink after releasing the egg, but if it does not, fluid can accumulate inside the follicle.

This causes the corpus luteum to turn into a cyst. Corpus luteum cysts usually go away within a few weeks, but they may be painful or cause bleeding when they grow.

What are the causes of ovarian cysts?

Generally, ovarian cysts develop because of the menstrual cycle since it depends on the release of the egg from the follicle. It is common in women who have regular periods, and such cysts are only noticeable if they begin to grow or multiply.

What are the risk factors of ovarian cysts?

A woman's risk of developing an ovarian cyst is increased if they face any of the following:

  • Hormonal problems
  • Taking fertility drugs like clomiphene
  • Endometriosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Severe pelvic infections
  • Having had an ovarian cyst previously

What are the symptoms of ovarian cysts?

As mentioned above, ovarian cysts tend to go away without any treatment. However, if you notice a few of the following symptoms, it is advised to visit a doctor as it could be signs of an ovarian cyst that has not disappeared or another serious medical issue:

  • Sudden and intense pain in the abdominal or pelvic area
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Heaviness in the abdomen
  • Pain accompanied by fever or vomiting
  • Light-headedness
  • Dizziness
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Rapid breathing
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Breast tenderness
  • Dull pain in the lower back and thighs
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle (irregular periods)

What are the complications associated with ovarian cysts?

The following is a list of complications associated with ovarian cysts:

  • Development of cancerous cystic ovarian masses : Sometimes, women may develop the less common types of ovarian cysts. If the mass develops after a woman goes through menopause, it has a high probability of turning cancerous.
  • Ovarian torsion : When cysts enlarge, they can cause the ovary to move around. This movement can cause the ovary to endure painful twisting, often referred to as ovarian torsion. It can lead to a decrease in blood flow to the ovaries, severe pelvic pain, nausea and vomiting.
  • Ruptured cysts : When a cyst ruptures, it can cause intense pain and internal bleeding. The bigger the size of the cyst, the higher the chances for it to rupture. In addition, activities like vaginal sex can further increase the likelihood of a rupture.
  • Infected ovarian cyst : Ovarian cysts may also develop due to a pelvic infection. This infection causes an abscess to form, and if it bursts, harmful bacteria can spread throughout the body.

How are ovarian cysts diagnosed?

Following are some diagnostic techniques used by doctors and gynaecologists to check for the presence of ovarian cysts:

  • Pelvic examination
  • Pelvic ultrasound
  • Laparoscopy
  • CA 125 blood test
  • Hormonal level tests
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan

What are the treatment options for ovarian cysts?

The treatment given for ovarian cysts differs from one woman to another. It is dependent on factors like age, the type and size of their cyst, and their symptoms. The following is a list of treatments:

1. Birth control pills

A doctor may prescribe birth control pills. However, birth control pills generally don’t prevent the formation of new ovarian cysts.

2. Laparoscopy

This treatment is a form of surgery usually administered for smaller cysts. A tiny incision is made above or below the belly button so that a camera can be used to identify the location of the cyst. The cyst is then removed by a small medical instrument.

3. Laparotomy

This treatment is a form of surgery usually administered for large cysts that may be malignant. A larger incision is made over the abdominal region to remove the cyst. The cyst is then tested for cancer. If it is confirmed cancerous, debulking surgery will be performed, including the removal of the ovaries (salpingo-oophorectomy) and uterus (hysterectomy).

How to prevent ovarian cysts?

Ovarian cysts cannot really be prevented. This is why meeting with a doctor for regular pelvic exams or to discuss some of the symptoms outlined above is encouraged.

Regular pelvic exams can provide an early diagnosis of a dangerous cyst, ultimately reducing the chances of anything cancerous.

Doctor showing report to grandma Image

FAQ about ovarian cysts

1. Can spicy food cause ovarian cysts?

Spicy food does not cause the development of ovarian cysts. The symptoms of aches in the abdomen area that results from consuming spicy food is similar to the symptoms of ovarian cysts, but there is no direct correlation linking spicy foods to ovarian cysts.

2. What foods help ovarian cysts?

Women with ovarian cysts should have a diet that is low in fat, high in fibre, high in lean proteins, and also consume food that is anti-inflammatory.

Examples of recommended foods include whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Foods that have refined carbohydrates and are highly processed should be avoided.

3. What is the correlation between green tea and ovarian cysts?

There are various studies and research that have shown how consuming green tea can decrease insulin resistance that women with ovarian cysts often have. It can also reduce the number of cystic follicles in the ovary and increase the number of follicles and corpus luteum.

4. What activities to avoid with ovarian cysts?

It is best to avoid physical activity that is vigorous. Examples of activities that should be refrained from include strenuous exercise and vaginal sex.

5. What are the chances of getting pregnant with ovarian cysts?

Ovarian cysts usually do not affect the chances of getting pregnant, but they can make it harder to conceive. If the cyst alone is removed and the ovaries are untouched, or one ovary is removed, eggs can still be produced, meaning that it is possible to get pregnant.

However, if both of the ovaries are removed, eggs are no longer produced, meaning that it is not possible to get pregnant.

6. What supplements are good for ovarian cysts?

Over-the-counter pain medications, like ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen can aid with the pain that arises from ovarian cysts.

Maca root supplements, which have been said to regulate hormone levels, can aid in reducing symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, and feelings of depression.

Since the reactions to supplements vary from individual to individual, it is advised to ask a doctor regarding the ones suitable for you.

7. What is the difference between PCOS and ovarian cysts?

The difference between PCOS and ovarian cysts has to do with the hormone levels. Women with PCOS tend to have a hormonal imbalance, which is not necessarily the case for women with ovarian cysts. Those who have ovarian cysts are not guaranteed to have PCOS.

8. Why do ovarian cysts make you gain weight?

Ovarian cysts can make you gain weight as there are certain cysts that secrete hormones that affect your weight. It can also lead to metabolic issues, thus causing weight gain.

9. When should I be concerned about an ovarian cyst?

If you experience symptoms of pelvic pain along with fever, nausea, and vomiting, it is a sign that you have an infected ovarian cyst and need to seek medical attention immediately.

Read more: Fibroids vs Cysts: How Do They Differ?

Book an appointment at Pantai Hospitals

Ovarian cysts are common, especially in women that are in the reproductive age group. Most of them are not cancerous and tend to go away on their own. It is recommended to get regular pelvic check-ups to monitor the area for any signs of ovarian cysts that are dangerous.

Make an appointment with a gynaecologist at the Gynaecological services available at Pantai Hospitals, Malaysia.

Pantai Hospitals have been accredited by the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) for its commitment to patient safety and service quality.


Bhargava, Hansa. (29 July 2020). “Ovarian Cysts.” Available at https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/ovarian-cysts. [Accessed 18 Mar 2022]

Higuera, Valencia. (15 June 2015). “Ovarian Cysts.” Available at https://www.healthline.com/health/ovarian-cysts. [Accessed 18 Mar 2022]

Iglesia, Cheryl. (1 Apr. 2019). “Ovarian Cysts.” Available at https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/ovarian-cysts. [Accessed 18 Mar 2022]

Marcin, Ashley. (7 Mar. 2019). “11 Home Treatments for Ovarian Cyst Symptoms” Available at https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/ovarian-cyst-treatment-at-home. [Accessed 18 Mar 2022]

Mayo Clinic. (26 Aug. 2020). “Ovarian Cysts.” Available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ovarian-cysts/symptoms-causes/syc-20353405. [Accessed 18 Mar 2022]

National Health Service (NHS). (n.d.). “Ovarian Cyst.” Available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ovarian-cyst. [Accessed 18 Mar 2022]

Tidy, Colin. (21 July 2021). “Ovarian Cyst.” Available at https://patient.info/womens-health/pelvic-pain-in-women/ovarian-cyst. [Accessed 18 Mar 2022]

The effect of Green tea on reproductive improvement, Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4673950/#:~:text=The%20results%20of%20the%20present,cystic%20follicles%20in%20the%20ovary. [Accessed 18 Mar 2022]

Thank you for your patience