5 Risk Factors for Ovarian Cysts

Ovarian cysts are relatively common, affecting up to 18% of premenopausal and postmenopausal women. While most ovarian cysts exist without symptoms and disappear or shrink on their own, some can cause pain or other complications. 

An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms inside or on an ovary during or after ovulation. The sac, or follicle, holds the maturing egg until it’s released. When the egg isn’t released or the follicle closes after the egg is released, it fills up with fluid, creating an ovarian cyst.

Since you can have an asymptomatic ovarian cyst without realizing it exists, most ovarian cysts are identified during a pelvic exam. At Serrano OBGyn in San Antonio, Texas, our

OB/GYN, Christopher Serrano, MD, provides expert diagnosis and treatment for ovarian cysts. 

In addition to a thorough physical exam, Dr. Serrano may use diagnostic imaging tools, such as a pelvic ultrasound, to confirm an ovarian cyst exists. Based on his findings and your symptoms, medical history, and current condition, Dr. Serrano recommends an appropriate course of treatment.  

The majority of ovarian cysts are categorized as functional cysts, which typically don’t pose a problem or require treatment. However, abnormal ovarian cysts can affect your fertility, produce severe symptoms, and cause potentially life-threatening circumstances. 

Here we discuss five risk factors for ovarian cysts. 

#1 Hormonal imbalance

When estrogen and progesterone are balanced, they work together to signal your body to release an egg every month. However, when there’s an imbalance, your ovary may not receive the signal it needs to release the egg, leaving the follicle closed and positioned to continue as an ovarian cyst. 

Taking hormones that encourage ovulation as part of fertility treatments can also make you more susceptible to the development of ovarian cysts. 

The fertility drug clomiphene (Clomid) is associated with a higher incidence of ovarian cysts because the drug may trigger the development of multiple follicles in the ovaries. Follicles that fail to break open and release an egg remain as fluid-filled sacs that become ovarian cysts.

#2 Pregnancy

Many women develop an ovarian cyst, called a corpus luteum cyst, early in pregnancy. 

After an egg is released from the follicle, the follicle shrivels into a structure called the corpus luteum. The job of the corpus luteum is to secrete hormones to prepare the uterus for conception. 

The corpus luteum supports the pregnancy until the placenta has formed, usually by the 12th week. At that time, the corpus luteum typically disappears. In some cases, the corpus luteum remains and becomes filled with fluid, forming an ovarian cyst, usually without interfering with the pregnancy.

#3 History of ovarian cysts

Having a history of ovarian cysts increases your risk of developing more. This may be due to an ongoing hormonal imbalance or another physical condition. 

To prevent the recurrence of additional ovarian cysts, Dr. Serrano may prescribe birth control pills to regulate your hormones. While this can prevent the development of additional ovarian cysts, it won’t affect existing cysts.

#4 Pelvic infection

A pelvic infection, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), can contribute to the development of ovarian cysts. This can occur when bacteria from the infection spreads from the cervix to the ovaries and causes cysts to form.

Ovarian cysts that develop from a pelvic infection are filled with bacteria. If the infected ovarian cyst ruptures, the release of the bacteria can trigger sepsis, a potentially life-threatening illness. If you have an infected ovarian cyst, treatment may involve oral antibiotics or physical drainage of the cyst to prevent the possibility of sepsis.

#5 Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a chronic condition in which tissue similar to the uterine lining grows outside your uterus. It typically grows on organs in the pelvis, including your fallopian tubes, bowel, bladder, vagina, and rectum. 

The tissue can also grow inside and on your ovaries. When the endometrial tissue grows in the ovaries, it forms cavities within the ovaries that fill with blood. These ovarian cysts, called endometriomas or “chocolate cysts,” can affect the health of your ovaries and threaten fertility. 

While most ovarian cysts don’t produce symptoms, cysts that occur with endometriosis usually cause pain before, during, and after your monthly period, which is a common symptom of endometriosis.

You can reduce your risk of complications from ovarian cysts by having an annual pelvic exam and seeking medical attention if you notice abnormal pelvic pain or irregular bleeding. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Serrano, book it online or call of our office today.

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