Ovarian Cysts

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ovarian Cysts Pictures Slideshow
Pelvic pain testing

Cyst Symptoms and Causes

Cysts can arise through a variety of processes in the body, including:

  • "wear and tear" or simple obstructions to the flow of fluid,
  • infections,
  • tumors,
  • chronic inflammatory conditions,
  • genetic (inherited) conditions, and
  • defects in developing organs in the embryo.

Quick GuideWhat’s Causing Your Abdominal Pain?

What’s Causing Your Abdominal Pain?

Ovarian cysts facts

  • Ovarian cysts are closed, sac-like structures within the ovary that are filled with a liquid or semisolid substance.
  • Ovarian cysts form for numerous reasons.
  • Pain in the abdomen or pelvis is the most common symptom of an ovarian cyst, but most are asymptomatic.
  • Most cysts are diagnosed by ultrasound or physical exam.
  • The treatment of an ovarian cyst depends upon its likely diagnosis and varies from observation and monitoring to surgical treatment.

What is the ovary and what are ovarian cysts?

The ovary is one of a pair of reproductive glands in women that are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. Each ovary is about the size and shape of a walnut. The ovaries produce eggs (ova) and female hormones estrogen and progesterone. The ovaries are the main source of female hormones, which control the development of female body characteristics such as the breasts, body shape, and body hair. They also regulate the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Ovarian cysts are closed, sac-like structures within an ovary that contain a liquid, or semisolid substance. "Cyst" is merely a general term for a fluid-filled structure, which may or may not represent a tumor or neoplasm (new growth). If it is a tumor, it may be benign or malignant. The ovary is also referred to as the female gonad.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/4/2015

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