What is functional ovarian cysts?

Functional ovarian cyst: Overview

A functional ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms on the ovary. A sac normally forms during ovulation to hold a maturing egg. Usually the sac goes away after the egg is released. But if the egg is not released, or if the sac closes up after the egg is released, the sac can swell up with fluid. This forms a functional cyst.

These ovarian cysts are different than ovarian growths caused by other problems, such as cancer. Most functional ovarian cysts cause no symptoms and go away on their own. Some cause mild pain. Others can cause severe pain when they break or bleed.

Functional ovarian cyst

A functional ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac on your ovary. Most of these cysts are harmless and will go away on their own. But some may rupture, twist, or bleed, which can be very painful.

What happens when you have a functional ovarian cyst?

Most functional ovarian cysts cause no symptoms and go away after 1 to 2 menstrual periods. Some cysts grow as large as 4 in. (10.2 cm) in diameter before they shrink or rupture. They don’t cause ovarian cancer.

What are the symptoms of functional ovarian cysts?

Functional ovarian cysts usually are harmless and don't cause symptoms. The larger the cyst is, the more likely it is to cause symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • Pelvic pain.
  • Pain with intercourse.
  • Belly pain.
  • Menstrual period changes.

There are many other conditions that cause symptoms like those of a functional ovarian cyst. So it's important to have any unusual pelvic symptoms checked and to have a pelvic exam.

How are functional ovarian cysts treated?

Most functional ovarian cysts go away without treatment. When treatment is needed, the goals are to:

  • Relieve pelvic pain or pressure.
  • Prevent more cysts from forming.

Home treatment with heat and pain medicine can often relieve symptoms.

Treatment with medicines or surgery may be used for a cyst that doesn't go away, looks odd on an ultrasound, or causes symptoms.

Your doctor may suggest that you try birth control pills for several months. They prevent ovulation. This can stop more cysts from forming.

Surgery to remove the cyst (cystectomy) through a small incision (laparoscopy) may be done. This is done if a painful cyst doesn't go away with treatment. If a cyst looks odd on an ultrasound or if you have other risk factors for ovarian cancer, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the cyst through a larger belly incision (laparotomy).

How are functional ovarian cysts diagnosed?

If you see your doctor for pelvic pain or bleeding, you'll be checked for problems that may be causing your symptoms. Your doctor may find an ovarian cyst during a pelvic exam. You may have a pelvic ultrasound to see if the cyst is filled with fluid.

How can you care for yourself when you have a functional ovarian cyst?

  • Use heat, such as a hot water bottle, a heating pad set on low, or a warm bath, to relax tense muscles and relieve cramping.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Avoid constipation. Make sure you drink enough fluids and include fruits, vegetables, and fiber in your diet each day. Constipation does not cause ovarian cysts, but it may make you feel more uncomfortable.

What increases your risk of having a functional ovarian cyst?

A functional ovarian cyst sometimes develops near the end of the menstrual cycle, when an egg follicle fills up with fluid. Factors that may increase your risk for developing a functional ovarian cyst include:

  • A history of a previous functional ovarian cyst.
  • Current use of clomiphene, such as Clomid or Serophene, to start ovulation.
  • Use of low-dose progestin-only contraception (such as some implants, pills, and IUDs).

What causes functional ovarian cysts?

A functional ovarian cyst is caused by slight changes in the way the ovary makes or releases an egg. A cyst may form when a sac on the ovary doesn't release an egg, and the sac swells with fluid. Or the sac may release an egg and then reseal and fill with fluid.

What are functional ovarian cysts?

A functional ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms on an ovary. A sac normally forms to hold a maturing egg. But if the egg isn't released, or if the sac closes after the egg is released, the sac can swell with fluid. A large cyst may cause problems like pain or bleeding.

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