Many women wouldn’t necessarily realize that they have an ovarian cyst. For the most part, they can be symptom-free, unless they become large and/or rupture.
The symptoms of ovarian cyst could be:
- Lower abdominal pain on either side that may radiate down your thighs or into your back.
- Pain during a bowel movement or intercourse.
- Persistent abdominal bloating.
Associated symptoms that might alert a person to the fact that there may be cysts on the ovary include:
- Irregular periods
- Excessive facial hair
- Excessive body hair
- Abdominal pain during ovulation or your period.
What Are Ovarian Cysts?
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled pockets that occur in your ovaries. They are common; can come and go away on their own without any treatment. There are different types of ovarian cysts.
- Some ovarian cysts, known as functional cysts, are egg follicles that begin to mature into an egg but get stalled in the process and remain in the ovary as a cyst. These type of cysts can come and go; your body can break them down and resolve them.
- Corpus luteal cysts occur after ovulation; the leftover shell from the egg follicle can close up and become a fluid-filled sac. These are also functional cysts and can come and go.
- Other ovarian cysts are known as endometriomas. These are endometrial (uterine lining) tissue that is on the ovary and is associated with a condition known as endometriosis.
- Hemorrhagic cysts are egg follicles that have ruptured and in the process have released blood.
- Dermoid cysts are ovarian cysts that can contain tissue such as teeth, hair, and fat.
Are Ovarian Cysts Dangerous?
For the most part, ovarian cysts are not dangerous or life-threatening. However, cysts that become very large have the potential to rupture, releasing blood and fluid into the abdomen which in some cases can cause life-threatening infections.
Large cysts can also cause the ovary to twist (ovarian torsion) which requires immediate medical attention. The twisting cuts off the blood supply to the ovary, which can cause the loss of the ovary.
Endometriosis cysts can cause extreme abdominal pain, impair fertility, and even cause life-threatening lung collapse (catamenial pneumothorax).
The conditions that produce ovarian cysts are usually related to hormone imbalance which should be addressed for optimal health and prevention of more serious conditions.
Are Ovarian Cysts Cancerous?
Cysts are not cancerous, nor do they become cancerous. However, the conditions that allow cysts to be present may also be conditions that may promote ovarian cancer growth. Cysts on the ovaries may also prevent accurate imaging of the ovaries and may obscure detection of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer may also be mistakenly interpreted as an ovarian cyst and vice versa.
How Do Ovarian Cysts Affect My Health?
Because cysts are a sign of hormone imbalance, there are a number of implications for long-term health. Conditions that are associated with hormone imbalance include:
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS
- Reproductive cancers
- Hair loss
See your doctor about ovarian cysts if:
- You are experiencing sudden, severe abdominal pain.
- You have pain, fever, and vomiting.
- Your periods are irregular.
Ovarian cysts may be picked up by your doctor on a manual pelvic exam. If your doctor suspects ovarian cysts, he or she may send you for a pelvic and transvaginal ultrasound. Most cysts are picked up this way.
Ovarian cysts don’t usually require treatment and usually get resolved on their own. Your doctor may recommend repeating your ultrasound in a few months to ensure that they have resolved. If a cyst is particularly large or if cysts are present after menopause, your doctor may recommend that they be surgically removed.
Natural Remedies For Ovarian Cysts
Ovarian cysts are a sign of hormone imbalance, the goal of natural treatment is to balance hormones. For most women, this can be done through diet, stress reduction, and exercise mainly.
Reduce intake of refined carbs and sugars. Increase intake of protein, fiber, nuts and seeds, vegetables, fruit, and healthy fats.
Aim for some form of physical activity on a daily basis, even if it’s just a brisk walk.
Herbs For Ovarian Cysts
There are a number of herbs that can be used to help balance hormones and prevent the occurrence of ovarian cysts. The appropriate herb depends on the specific hormonal imbalance.
In women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, herbs like saw palmetto, pygeum, and nettle root can help block male hormones that might contribute the cysts. Herbs like Shatavari, black cohosh, and peony can be used to support healthy ovulation.
I don’t recommend self-medicating with herbs, it’s best to seek guidance from a licensed professional like a naturopathic doctor.