What is an ovarian cyst?

An ovarian cyst is a sac filled with fluid or a semisolid material that forms on or within one of the ovaries, the small organs in the pelvis that make female hormones and hold egg cells.

There are different types of cysts, many of which are normal and harmless (benign). Functional cysts, which are not disease-related, occur as a result of ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary). Functional cysts generally shrink over time, usually within 60 days, without specific treatment.

Functional ovarian cysts, which are relatively common, should not be confused with other types of cysts that are disease-related. Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome and ovarian cancer also involve growths on the ovaries. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any of the symptoms listed in the symptoms section. He or she can determine the type of cyst you have.

What causes an ovarian cyst?

The exact cause of ovarian cysts is not known.

What are the symptoms of an ovarian cyst?

Some smaller cysts cause no symptoms; you may not even know you have a cyst. Larger cysts may cause the following symptoms:

Some prolonged symptoms may be associated with a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal imbalance that causes irregular periods and other hormone-related problems, including obesity and infertility. Other symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome include hirsutism (increased growth of body hair) and obesity.

What are the complications of an ovarian cyst?

If a cyst breaks open, it can cause severe pain and swelling in the abdomen.