An ovarian cyst is a growth or swelling on the ovary, or inside the ovary. The cyst can be filled with fluids (these are called Functional Cysts) or it can be solid (these are called Abnormal Cysts). There is also a particular condition called Polycystic Ovaries, which can lead to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

Solid cysts are sometimes referred to as a tumor, and although this immediately makes you think of cancer, it does not mean this – tumor is just a medical term for swelling. The vast majority of ovarian cysts are not cancerous.

Below are details of the most common types of ovarian cysts.

Functional cysts are the most common type of ovarian cyst and usually develop during your childbearing years. They arise during the normal process of releasing an egg (ovulation) and are benign – in other words non cancerous.

Once a month the ovary makes a number of small sacs (follicles) which hold the eggs. These follicles are full of fluid, so are a bit like small cysts. Once the egg is mature the follicle breaks open to release the egg. The egg then travels down the fallopian tube ready to be fertilized by sperm. The sac dissolves away and your body absorbs the fluid that was in it.

If this does not happen as normal, then this can cause functional ovarian cysts. There are two types of functional ovarian cyst.

  • Follicular cyst

A follicular cyst can occur when the follicle does not release the egg, or if the follicle continues to fill with fluid after the egg is released. These cysts can grow to 4 or 5 cm in size, but they usually disappear on their own within a few weeks.

  • Corpus luteum cyst

These are less common than follicular cysts. They develop in the second half of the menstrual cycle after the egg has been released. Instead of dissolving away, the tissue that is left behind (the corpus luteum) fills with fluid and reseals itself to form a sac which fills with blood. These can grow up to 6cm in size. They usually disappear on their own within a few months, but can occasionally split (or rupture) causing sudden pain and bleeding.

2. Abnormal cysts

These are very different from functional cysts because they are the result of abnormal cell growth. This does not, however, mean that they are cancerous. Many cysts are simply benign growths. No one knows for sure what causes this abnormal cell growth. The cysts can remain forever, without causing any problems, or they may burst, requiring emergency surgery. There are several types of abnormal ovarian cysts.

  • Cystadenoma cysts

Cystadenomas are known as neoplasms (new growths). These cysts develop from cells on the outer surface of the ovaries. There are two types of cystadenomas – serous and mucinous. They can grow to a large size and are sometimes attached to the ovary by a stem

Serous cystadenoma cysts are filled with a thin watery fluid and can grow to be between 2 inches to 6 inches in diameter. Mucinous cystadenoma is filled with a sticky, thick gelatinous material and can grow to be between 6 inches to 12 inches in diameter.

The cysts themselves may not cause any real symptoms, but they can twist on their stems and then rupture, which can be extremely painful, and would require emergency surgery.

  • Endometrial cysts

Endometriosis is a condition where cells that normally grow inside the uterus (womb), instead grow outside the uterus. When endometriosis involves the ovary, the area of endometrial tissue may grow and bleed over time, forming a brown-colored cystic area sometimes referred to as a chocolate cyst or endometrioma.

Every month during your period these endometrial patches of tissues that have become encapsulated in a cyst will bleed. Because there is no outlet for the bleeding, the cyst becomes larger. Even small chocolate cysts can rupture, although they may grow very large causing severe pain.

  • Dermoid cysts

Dermoid cysts are also known as ovarian neoplasms, and are classed as tumors rather than simply cysts. They are a really bizarre phenomenon and consist of skin or related tissue such as hair, teeth or bone instead of fluid like the cystadenomas. Every one of your eggs has the potential to create another human being, and dermoid cysts are effectively structures that are filled with pieces of bone, teeth, hair and skin.

It is not clear exactly what causes these, but one theory is that an unfertilized egg begins to produce various body tissues. They are solid structures, which means that they are not, technically, cysts, but they can become malignant (cancerous).

Polycystic ovaries and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovaries is a particular condition in which the follicles never erupt from the ovaries. Under normal circumstances, follicles grow, mature, and rise to the surface of the ovary, where they burst and release an egg to the Fallopian tube. Polycystic simply means ‘many cysts’ and describes the appearance of the ovary in an ultrasound scan. The cysts are follicles, some are immature but contain an egg, and others are empty.

A polycystic ovary contains at least ten cysts just below the surface, and although each cyst only measures between two and eight millimeters, together they make the ovary enlarged.

Polycystic ovaries are not particularly troublesome and in many cases they will not even affect your fertility. There can be a problem, however, when the cysts cause a hormonal imbalance, leading to a series of other problems associated with this.

This is the difference between polycystic ovaries and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS includes other symptoms and physiological abnormalities in addition to the presence of ovarian cysts. It is a condition characterized by irregular or no menstrual periods, acne, obesity, and excess hair growth. It also carries cardiovascular risks, and increases the risk of miscarriage.

This article is based on the book, “Natural Ovarian Cyst Relief Secrets” by Laura Hennings. After suffering for 6 long years from crippling pain caused by ovarian cysts, and having been totally failed by conventional medicine, Laura took matters into her own hands. She is now totally cyst free, and is dedicated to creating the ultimate holistic ovarian cyst solution for others, guaranteed to permanently cure all types of ovarian cysts. Learn more by visiting her website