Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop within or on the surface of a woman’s ovary. The ovaries are small, bean-shaped organs that are found on either side of the uterus.
It’s common for women to experience ovarian cysts at some point during their lifetime. Usually, cysts are harmless and disappear without treatment within a few months. Here’s a look at the different types of ovarian cysts.
Functional Ovarian Cysts
A functional ovarian cyst forms because of a change in the way the ovary develops or releases an egg. The two types of functional ovarian cysts include:
- Follicular cysts: These are the most common type of ovarian cyst. A woman’s ovaries release an egg every month. The egg travels to the uterus (womb), where it has the possibility of being fertilized by a male’s sperm. The egg forms in the follicle. The follicle contains fluid to protect the egg as it grows. The egg is then released and the follicle bursts.
If the follicle doesn’t shed its fluid, shrink after the egg is released, or release an egg, the follicle will swell with fluid—resulting in a follicular ovarian cyst. Normally, the cyst will go away within a few weeks and doesn’t need treatment.
- Luteal ovarian cysts: These functional ovarian cysts aren’t as common. They occur when tissue is left behind after the egg has been released and blood fills the tissue. Usually, the cyst goes away after a few months. It may, however, sometimes rupture. A ruptured cysts can cause sudden pain and internal bleeding.
These ovarian cysts are the most common type of pathological cyst for women under 30 years of age.
A dermoid cyst is a tumor—usually benign (non-cancerous). This type of cyst is a result of a totipotential germ cell (a primary oocyte). The cell can produce all types of cells necessary to form mature tissues. Therefore, dermoid cysts can be produced from hair, skin, bone and other tissues (sometimes even teeth). A totipotential germ cell can occur in any direction and develop from cells that make eggs. These cysts require surgical removal.
These cysts are seen more often in women over the age of 40. They’re ovarian cysts that develop from cells that cover the outer part of the ovary. They’re either filled with a thick, mucous substance, or a watery liquid. Cystadenomas are typically attached to the ovary by a stalk. They have the potential to grow because they exist outside of the ovary. Although they are often not cancerous, they still need to be removed surgically.
Endometriomas is a condition that can increase your risk of ovarian cysts. The condition causes cells that are normally found inside the uterus (endometrial cells) to grow outside of the uterus, resulting in a cyst.