An ovarian cyst is any collection of fluid, surrounded by a very thin wall, within an ovary. Any ovarian follicle that is larger than about two centimeters is termed an ovarian cyst. An ovarian cyst can be as small as a pea, or larger than an orange.
Most ovarian cysts are functional in nature, and harmless . In the US, ovarian cysts are found in nearly all premenopausal women, and in up to 14.8% of postmenopausal women.
Ovarian cysts affect women of all ages. They occur most often, however, during a woman's childbearing years.
Some ovarian cysts cause problems, such as bleeding and pain. Surgery may be required to remove cysts larger than 5 centimeters in diameter.
Some or all of the following symptoms may be present, though it is possible not to experience any symptoms:
- Dull aching, or severe, sudden, and sharp pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen (one or both sides), pelvis, vagina, lower back, or thighs; pain may be constant or intermittent—this is the most common symptom
- Fullness, heaviness, pressure, swelling, or bloating in the abdomen
- Breast tenderness
- Pain during or shortly after beginning or end of menstrual period.
- Irregular periods, or abnormal uterine bleeding or spotting
- Change in frequency or ease of urination (such as inability to fully empty the bladder), or difficulty with bowel movements due to pressure on adjacent pelvic anatomy
- Weight gain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Increased level of hair growth
- Increased facial hair or body hair
- Strange pains in ribs, which feel muscular
- Strange nodules that feel like bruises under the layer of skin