Ovarian Cysts & Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Ovarian cysts should not be confused with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), a different condition in which women produce more male hormones than usual, which may cause other symptoms. Most ovarian cysts are usually developed as a result of normal hormonal changes in adolescence or menopause. These cysts are usually filled with fluid, may grow to very large size, cause symptoms, and are usually removed with surgery.

The most important difference between ovarian cysts is that PCOS causes significant hormonal imbalances, something not typically seen in ovarian cysts. Although PCOS is called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, many women who suffer from PCOS do not develop an ovarian cyst. Even though it is called polycystic ovary Syndrome, not all women with this condition develop cysts. Certain health problems that involve hormones, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis, may contribute to the development of cysts, whether they are simple or complicated.

Cycles containing tissue will not go away, and may put pressure on your ovaries, as well as other nearby organs. This condition means the ovary contains an abundance of small cysts.

Sometimes, instead of having one cyst, the ovaries can develop several cysts. Taking fertility drugs frequently causes multiple follicles (cysts) to develop in an ovary. In women with PCOS, several follicles continue to grow without producing eggs, and several cysts may develop in the ovaries. When a woman does indeed get cysts with PCOS, cysts are persistent, because the hormone imbalance means that your ovaries are not always getting the message to release eggs from follicles.

During normal menstrual periods, your ovaries produce cyst-like follicles as part of producing hormones at ovulation. Functional cysts develop during normal menstrual cycles, and they do not cause or contribute to infertility. Functional cysts are a type of cyst that is typically caused by hormone disruption. The presence of follicles can interfere with hormone production and ovulation.

Corpus luteum cysts are where a follicle actually releases an egg, but does not then seal up and shut down afterward. Cysts may also form after an egg is released; the follicle is filled with liquid. If a capsule called the follicle does not burst, fluid within the follicle may form a cyst on the ovaries.

Sometimes, a cyst can be removed, leaving the ovary mostly intact. If the ovarian cyst is causing severe pain, is larger than 5cm, or appears to be associated with endometriosis, your healthcare provider may recommend surgically removing the cyst. Complications can occur if the cyst becomes infected, or the weight of the cyst causes your ovary to twist, known as an ovarian torsion.

Also known as ovarian torsion, this more severe complication mostly happens to women with larger cysts — and usually happens after they move violently, such as playing tennis. Complex ovarian cysts, however, may cause ovarian torsion, the condition where your ovaries twist, if they get too big and force the ovaries to shift. Corpus luteum cysts can get big (more than 3 inches long) and may burst, rotate, and twist the ovary, which causes painful symptoms.

These cysts are pockets of mucus, fluid, and ovarian tissue at the outer surface of the ovaries. Dermoid cysts can contain ovarian germ cells as well as tissues such as teeth, hair, or fat. Made up of the same tissues like bone, fat, hair, or cartilage, dermoid cysts can become inflamed and result in an ovarian twisting or turning.

Endometrioid cysts develop when endometrial cells — cells that are usually found on a woman’s uterus lining — grow inside of her ovary. This condition affects women throughout their fertile years, and is a common cause of chronic pelvic pain. Endometriomas are cysts caused by endometriosis, a condition where tissue that normally lines your uterus (endometrium) grows outside of the uterus. What specifically causes ovarian cysts is different in every person, but ultimately, it comes down to a hormone imbalance between estrogen and progesterone, which may prevent the proper development of the tissue.

In the case of ovarian cysts, changes to your diet may help to balance hormones such as estrogen and progesterone in order to reduce the size of the ovarian cysts and prevent their recurrence. Because cysts may often be caused by excess estrogen, focusing on ways to support estrogen breakdown in the liver and elimination through the digestive system may be helpful for treating ovarian cysts.

While hormone treatments may prevent the growth of new cysts, hormone treatments are not effective at reducing existing cysts. Treatment options include observation, surgical removal, and hormonal therapy to prevent the growth of additional cysts.

Menstrual problems arise if a cyst produces sex hormones, which can make the uterus wall grow larger. When a woman is not able to ovulate, the hormone levels are altered over time, which can interfere with the normal development of eggs; the ovaries can look larger, with a surplus of fluid-filled pouches or cysts.

Considering complex ovarian cysts are often symptoms of larger health conditions, such as PCOS or endometriosis, it becomes all the more important to tackle the root causes, since there are all kinds of other chronic symptoms from these conditions that affect daily living. In case of PCOS, insulin resistance is prevalent and may contribute to other hormonal imbalances, so focusing your diet around managing insulin levels with reducing sugar intake and eating cleaner, whole foods with higher levels of fat and protein will be a way of treating a PCOS-related ovarian cyst.

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