What Are Ovarian Cysts?

Question

What are ovarian cysts? I was recently told I had an ovarian cyst after I went to the hospital in pain. Can I prevent them?

Answer

Ovarian cysts are common in women with regular periods. In fact, most women make at least one follicle or corpus luteum cyst every month. You may not be aware that you have a cyst unless there is a problem that causes the cyst to grow or if multiple cysts form. About 8% of premenopausal women develop large cysts that need treatment.

You cannot prevent functional ovarian cysts if you are ovulating. If you get ovarian cysts often, your doctor may prescribe hormonal birth control to stop you from ovulating. This will help lower your risk of getting new cysts.

Most ovarian cysts are small and don't cause symptoms. If a cyst does cause symptoms, you may have pressure, bloating, swelling, or pain in the lower abdomen on the side of the cyst. This pain may be sharp or dull and may come and go.

If a cyst ruptures, it can cause sudden, severe pain. If a cyst causes twisting of an ovary, you may have pain along with nausea and vomiting.

For more information and resources on ovarian cysts, be sure to check out the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Office on Women’s Health.


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Evita Almassi, MSW, served as the Communications and Digital Marketing Manager for the NWHN. Her 10+ years in nonprofit communications – especially with social media advocacy campaigns – enabled the NWHN to reach and empower more women in their health education and advocacy journeys.

Read more from Evita Almassi.


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