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Ovarian Cysts

What are ovarian cysts?

The ovaries are oval-shaped glands located on each side of the uterus. They contain eggs which develop and mature and then get released every month during ovulation. Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs located in or on your ovary and are a fairly common occurrence in most women. Most of the time, ovarian cysts are painless and harmless. 

There are also different types of ovarian cysts, these are:

  • Follicular cyst: the eggs in our ovaries grow and mature within a follicle which opens and releases the egg during ovulation. However, sometimes this follicle does not open causing the contents in it to become a follicular cyst.
  • Corpus luteum cyst: usually after the follicle releases the egg, it will dissolve. If it does not dissolve and instead reseals itself, the fluid inside the follicle can form a corpus luteum cyst.
  • Dermoid cyst: cysts that contain hair, tissues, and fats.
  • Cystadenomas: benign (non-cancerous/benign) growths that occur on the outer surface of the ovaries.
  • Endometrioma (chocolate cyst): when endometrial tissue which usually lines the uterus, grows, and attaches to the ovaries, resulting in a cyst.

Ovarian cysts are usually harmless; however, sometimes ovarian cysts may keep growing, become too big, and can eventually burst, causing serious problems.

ovarian cysts

What causes ovarian cysts?

The cause of most ovarian cysts is ovulation, but other causes may include:

  • Endometriosis: advanced endometriosis may cause cysts to form on the ovaries.
  • Cell reproduction: abnormal cell reproduction can cause dermoid cysts and cystadenomas to form.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): infections of the pelvic region that can spread to ovaries causing cysts.

abdominal pain

What are the symptoms of ovarian cysts?

Most of the time, ovarian cysts do not cause any pain or symptoms, however, some women may experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain during sex
  • Pelvic pain before or during menstrual cycle
  • Dull ache in the back and legs
  • Bloating
  • Painful periods
  • Painful bowel movements


There are several symptoms that may indicate a serious problem (cyst torsion or rupture) and require immediate medical care, these symptoms are:

  • Sharp and intense pelvic pain
  • Rapid breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever

Are ovarian cysts painful?

Most ovarian cysts are not painful as they usually appear and disappear on their own. However, if the cysts do not disappear and instead grow bigger, they may cause pain. If the cysts tort or rupture/burst, they can cause intense and sharp pelvic pain.

Who is at risk of ovarian cysts?

Although ovarian cysts are common occurrences, there are several factors that may increase a woman’s risk of getting an ovarian cyst, these are:

  • Pregnancy: in some women, the follicle that forms during ovulation remains during pregnancy in your ovaries and starts to grow larger.
  • Hormonal problems: medications for fertility that work to help you ovulate can increase your risk of ovarian cysts.
  • Endometriosis: women with endometriosis can have an increased risk of ovarian cysts.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease: an infection of the pelvic region can spread to the ovaries and causes cysts.

History of cysts: if you have a history of ovarian cysts, you have an increased risk of developing another one in the future.

How are ovarian cysts diagnosed?

Ovarian cysts are diagnosed in the following ways:

  • Pelvic exam: cysts can often be discovered during a pelvic exam where your pelvis is physically palpated to feel for any abnormalities. 
  • Ultrasound: ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of your internal organs. It can also be used to detect cysts.
  • Laparoscopy: a type of keyhole surgery where a small incision is made in your abdomen and a thin, flexible tube with a camera and light attached at one end is inserted to view the pelvis and reproductive organs.

Tumour marker test: on rare occasions, cysts may be more solid and could be a sign of ovarian cancer, a tumour marker test is used to check for signs of cancer.

What are the treatment options for ovarian cysts?

Most of the time, cysts go away on their own without causing any problems. 

However, for cysts that do not disappear, these are the treatment options:

  • Medication: birth control pills which keep you from ovulating can help to prevent ovarian cysts, but it will not help your cyst to shrink and dissolve.
  • Surgery: if your cyst is large, is continuing to grow, and causing pain, you may require surgery to remove it. A minimally invasive surgery, known as a laparoscopy, can be used to remove it.

Your gynaecologist will advise on the best course of action as this depends on your age, symptoms, menopausal status, and the size and nature of your ovarian cyst.


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#09-08 Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre
Singapore 228510

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