Multiple Ovarian Cysts

The ovaries are paired female reproductive organs mainly responsible for the production of sex hormones. Located in the lower abdomen, the ovaries produce eggs along with progesterone and estrogen. So many complications can affect the function of the ovaries, and a common problem is the development of a fluid-filled sac or simply a cyst that affects the way these reproductive organs work. It is possible to develop multiple ovarian cysts, but that does not always mean you can no longer reproduce. Let's find out more about it.

Are They Cancerous?

No, that is not always the case. Cysts are usually a part of the menstrual cycle and sometimes continue to grow after they develop in the ovaries. Still, that does not mean they are always cancerous. Most cancers would be solid instead of the hollow cyst.

In fact, studies show that women who have harmless ovarian cysts are not at an increased risk of developing cancerous ovarian growths in their lives. You are more likely to develop ovarian cancer if you have a history of it or you have been taking fertility drugs for in vitro fertilization or other artificial reproductive techniques. Other risk factors include the use of talcum powder near the vagina and a high-fat diet.

What Are They?

You can develop ovarian cysts and they may be different from one another. You can get endometrioma cysts as well as dermoid cysts. However, most women get functional cysts called corpus luteum and follicle cysts. Here is more about those multiple ovarian cysts you might get.

1. Follicular Cysts

Also called functional cysts, these types of cysts can appear on or in the ovary. They contain fluid and are more common in women of reproductive age as compared to post-menopausal women and prepubescent girls. These cysts are harmless and do not cause any pain. However, these noncancerous cysts can grow large and rupture, which may cause pressure, pain, or bloating in your lower abdominal region. Other common symptoms are vomiting, nausea, a change in the length of the menstrual cycle, and tenderness in the breasts. Also you may have an increased urge to use the bathroom when an enlarged cyst puts pressure on the bowels or bladder.

2. Corpus Luteum Cyst

It is also a type of functional cyst but is not as common as follicular cyst. The corpus luteum is basically the follicle, which ruptures after the release of egg and produces large quantities of progesterone and estrogen hormones. Sometimes, the fluid may accumulate inside the follicle because the opening of the egg seals off, and this in turn will make the corpus luteum to turn into a cyst. The use of the fertility drug clomiphene often increases the risk of developing such cysts after ovulation, but they do not affect pregnancy. These noncancerous cysts usually cause no pain and disappear within a couple of menstrual cycles.

3. Dermoid Cysts

You may have one of these cysts at birth but they become noticeable quite late because they grow slowly. Women can develop multiple ovarian cysts during their reproductive years and they can cause infection, torsion, and even cancer of the ovary. You may have to undergo laparoscopy to have these cysts removed. It is not an emergency procedure though and you usually require surgery only in case a dermoid cyst becomes inflamed, ruptures, or causes serious pain.

4. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

This common endocrine system disorder affects women of reproductive age. An ultrasound exam will confirm if you have PCOS – the image will show enlarged ovaries with small collections of fluid (called follicles) in each ovary. The most common symptoms of PCOS are excess hair growth, prolonged menstrual periods, obesity, and acne. Absent or infrequent menstruation in adolescents usually increases their risk of having polycystic ovary syndrome.

5. Endometriomas/Chocolate Cysts

Also called endometriosis of the ovaries, this disease process causes tiny implants of cells to become transplanted and then turn into small cysts. These cysts appear on the outside of the ovary and their size increase with time. These cysts respond to hormone stimulation and produce many small cysts that eventually replace the normal ovarian tissue. They are also called chocolate cysts because they contain a thick chocolate-type material, which spills over into the pelvis once the cyst ruptures – it may also spill over the surface of the bladder, uterus, and bowel. This may lead to adhesions, which in turn causes pelvic pain.

When to See a Doctor for Ovarian Cysts

Even when you have multiple ovarian cysts, you do not always need to worry. Most of the cysts are related to ovulation, but sometimes they are not and that is when your doctor will perform a thorough exam to make a diagnosis.

  • You usually need to worry about a solid cyst that persists after many menstrual cycles – it requires further evaluation because it can be cancerous.
  • Non-solid cysts are usually painless but they can cause problems in some cases. It is a good idea to see your doctor if your cyst is still there after a couple of menstrual periods or is growing over time.
  • You should also talk to your doctor if you have a cyst and experience symptoms such as pain/pressure during intercourse and intense abdominal pain.
  • You will need immediate medical attention if a cyst ruptures or twists because this will cause severe abdominal pain, internal bleeding, vomiting, nausea, faintness, and dizziness. Other issues include irregular bladder/bowel function, weight gain, an increase in body hair, and swelling in the vulva or legs.
  • It is important to see your doctor when you have a cyst as well as other symptoms because sometimes your symptoms may indicate other illnesses, such as tubal pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cancer, and endometriosis. Your doctor will confirm after running some tests.
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