Ovarian cysts are one of the most common conditions connected with women’s hormonal disorders. They can develop at any age, even in teenage girls before the appearance of the menstrual cycle.
Reason for the appearance of ovarian cysts, how are they formed
The appearance of ovarian cysts is associated with the basic functioning of ovaries and the female reproductive system as a whole. Each fertile woman who is not pregnant and is not breastfeeding produces cysts each month. These small cysts are called follicles and the eggs are placed in them. The process of the appearance, growth and rupture of the follicles is called ovulation.
Most common types of ovarian cysts - images
If the released egg is not fertilized and the woman does not get pregnant, the process is repeated the next month and that’s a lifelong process. So we may say that it’s a usual thing for women to have functional ovarian cysts on a monthly basis. There are cases when this follicle is not ruptured and the mini cyst may grow up to 4 – 5 cm and even more. Then we have a case of a follicular cyst.
Cyst in one or both ovaries
Cysts may be located in one or both of the ovaries. They may be:
- Single or multiple;
- Single-chambered or multi-chambered.
The cyst content may have liquid, solid or mixed components. They may be with homogenеous or heterogeneous structure, they may be benign or malignant or with borderline malignancy.
Apart from the follicular cysts which are associated with the usual ovarian function, another common form is the so-called yellow body cysts, which are physiological but sometimes their ultrasound characteristics are misleading for gynecologists.
Dermoid cysts are characterized by the fact that they often contain other body tissues such as hairs, teeth and fat.
These cysts are quite common in medical practice and are often named “chocolate cysts”. The endometriotic cysts are formed when the endometrium (the lining of uterus), grows at an unusual place – in the ovary. These cysts are called chocolate ones because their content is dense and brown like a chocolate spread. In fact, this is concentrated blood. Although endometriosis is a benign condition, it is a very invasive one and is the main cause for infertility and pelvic pain.
Ovary cysts and polycystic ovaries - what's the difference
Polycystic disease of the ovaries is a totally different condition which is often mixed with ovary cysts because of its similar name. The polycystic disease is NOT simply an accumulation of many cysts in the ovaries but a much more complicated disease.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome is found in 5-10% of women in reproductive age and is one of the causes of infertility. The condition is characterized by many small cysts that are situated on the surface of the ovaries. The cause for the development of the Polycystic ovary syndrome is not entirely clear. Some of them may be:
- Hormonal disbalance;
- Insulin resistance;
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition in girls and women which includes:
- Increased hair of a masculine type growing over the body (hirsutism);
- Heavy form of acne;
- Problems with the monthly period.
The increased hair growth may appear along the face, chin, neck, chest, breasts, shoulders, back, thighs, backside, and belly.
Problems with the menstrual cycle may be:
- Several consecutive months without menstrual cycle;
- Abundant or too long monthly period;
- Frequent periods (with less than 16 days in between);
- Some women have also ovary cysts;
- About 60 % - 70 % of girls and women with Polycystic ovary syndrome are overweight or obese, the others are with normal weight or even underweight;
- Heredity – mothers, aunts or sisters with the same problems or family members with diabetes type 2
What is the difference between a cyst and a fibroid in the female reproductive system?
Fibroids are hormone-dependent benign tumors of the uterus while cysts develop from the ovaries themselves. So there is a clear difference between them.
Of course, there are cases when we have a sub-peritoneal fibroid on a small “foot” (the fibroid is separated from the uterus and is connected to it only by this foot). In these cases, the fibroid may be mistaken for solid ovarian cyst. But in most cases, the cyst can be distinguished easily from the fibroid because the ultrasound examination shows that its echogenic characteristic is different and that it is situated in the ovary. We can get the most precise information about the situation of organs within the small pelvis by a gynecological ultrasound examination carried through the vagina and not through the belly wall.
When are ovary cysts dangerous?
A cyst may be dangerous depending on:
- Patients’ complains;
- Whether it’s benign or malignant.
One of the most important criteria is whether the cyst is benign or malignant. At the same time, some of the cysts may be benign and without any symptoms, but still they may hinder conception. This may lead to even greater sufferings of the patient and her family.
Do ovary cysts have specific symptoms? Cases of rupture
There are no typical symptoms associated with cysts. Sometimes the disease goes without any symptoms at all and is diagnosed during a random pelvic examination. In other cases, the complains may vary from heaviness and dull pain with or without changes in the monthly period to strong sharp pain, vomiting and even loss of consciousness.
The cyst is endometriotic
In this case, it may cause a painful monthly period. When the cyst is twisted around its axis this may also lead to sharp pain.
Larger cyst, rupture during sex
In this case, you may feel it as a bump and it may press the surrounding organs. Sometimes the cyst may burst during sexual intercourse and this may lead to sharp pain and bleeding in the abdominal cavity. In this case, the patient should be accepted in the hospital and even operated if needed.
At what age do cysts appear?
Ovary cysts can appear at any age, even in early childhood before the appearance of the menstrual cycle. Usually, ovary cysts are more often benign in young women than in older patients. So we may say that the ovarian cancer risk rises with age.
Diagnosis of ovarian cysts
A gynecologist diagnoses the condition after an examination and relevant laboratory tests. In the best case, these tests should be carried out between the 3rd and 5th day of the beginning of the period. When we have the Polycystic ovary syndrome, the level of the luteinizing hormone (LH) is considerably higher than the level of the Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). So the whole chain of the menstrual period regulation is disturbed – I.e. hypothalamus-pituitary gland – ovaries.
Treatment and remedies of ovarian cysts
Treatment methods about each cyst depend on its characteristics and patient complains. In case of surgery, the most proper treatment of benign ovary cysts is laparoscopy. If after a few months there is no effect concerning the menstrual cycle and ovulation regulation, doctors may decide to proceed with surgery.
What to expect after surgery of an ovarian cyst?
The treatment of ovarian cysts depends on their type. These may be:
The cyst is follicular and single-chambered,
Up to 4 cm in diameter, with clear content, without papillae and moving (signs that it’s benign), doctors may wait for several months. Some gynecologists prescribe contraceptives for easier rupture of such kind of cysts. The yellow body cysts should also be followed for some period and doctors should not hurry to carry on the surgery.
The cyst is endometrial or dermoid
When the cyst is endometrial or dermoid, it cannot disappear by itself and has to removed by surgery. If not removed, these cysts tend to grow and to eat the ovary tissue.
The cysts are with a heterogeneous structure and malignant signs
Then additional tests have to be done (scanner, MRI scan, cancer markers) and open surgery has to be planned. We have to underline that the only sure reliable way for diagnosis is the histopathological examination of the tumor (cyst) which can be done after surgery.
Laparoscopic removal and removal recovery time
If you need surgery, doctors insist that the most proper therapy for benign ovary cysts is a laparoscopy. It is the golden standard for simultaneous diagnosis and therapy for a number of gynecological conditions such as cysts, endometriosis, infertility, uterine fibroids, ectopic pregnancy, hydrosalpinx, pelvic pain and removal of conglutinations. When the ovary cyst is malignant and there is a danger for it to rupture and get into contact with surrounding organs during laparoscopy, then a conventional open surgery has to be performed.
On the other hand, a well-done surgery also makes it possible for the cyst to be removed intact. It can be performed by a well trained and experienced team with the appropriate equipment and instruments. Doctors usually use for the purpose of a laparoscopic purse which makes it possible the safe and neat removal of the cyst, excluding the possibility for its rupture in the abdominal cavity. Compared to conventional surgery, laparoscopic procedures run much more smoothly and less painfully for the patients.
Diet for ovarian cysts, foods that heal
In most of the cases ovarian cysts grow in relation to hormonal shifts. Hormonal imbalance issues in the female reproductive system can cause these cysts to grow much larger and even rupture.
Ovarian cysts can shrink when you create internal hormonal environment that keeps their development under control. Here are some foods a woman can add to her daily diet for a healthy hormonal balance:
- Green vegetables like brussel sprouts, kale, collards, broccoli, cabbage. They contain Di-Indolyl Methane which is very effective at helping the body process and eliminate excess estrogen.
- Eggs for essential bio-available protein, glutathione-heavy veggies like avocados and asparagus, and selenium super foods like brazil nuts and oatmeal - all these detox your liver.
- Fibers - a diet high in fiber has been shown to decrease the reabsorption of estrogen in the body, lowering the incidence of estrogen-related health issues including cysts and breast cancer. Fruits and veggies are the best sources of fiber for this purpose. Eating complex carbohydrates adds dietary fiber to your food, which can help slow its digestion and slow the fluctuations in blood sugar that can lead to diabetes.
- Fermented foods - sauerkraut, kimchi, or pickles help your body manage estrogen levels.
- Foods that have a low glycemic index value. While high glycemic foods such as corn and potatoes are often thought of as healthy, this may not be the case for women with fibroids or cysts.
- Healthy protein foods such as fish, beans, legumes and low-fat dairy products instead of red meat or dark meat poultry. One of the risk factors for developing fibroids is the consumption of beef and other red meat which tend to have higher amounts of fats that can lead to weight gain and obesity. Obesity and excess levels of insulin are risk factors for developing fibroids.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages including coffee, tea and soft drinks. Caffeinated beverages contain substances known as methylxanthines which can impair the work of enzymes in your body, which can lead to toxic buildup.
Activities to avoid ovarian cysts
Engage in physical activity for at least 30 minutes five days a week. Women who exercise experience less occurrence of uterine fibroid development, a study found. The Mayo Clinic explains that regular exercise can stabilize blood sugar levels, which is of particular importance for women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Exercise helps you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight, decreasing the risks associated with obesity and accompanying fibroids and cysts.