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What are Ovarian Cysts?

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Ovarian cysts are very common, but they can be divided into two different types. Most are functional ovarian cysts, which often develop during the menstrual cycle and are usually harmless. However, sometime a pathological ovarian cyst can develop that may require treatment.

Functional Ovarian Cysts

Functional cysts can develop when a tiny mistake happens during the normal menstrual cycle. Your ovaries usually release an egg every month, which travels down the fallopian tubes and into the uterus. Before the egg can be released it has to be matured. This happens inside a special structure known as a follicle. When the egg is ready, the follicle bursts. The egg is released and the follicle should then disappear. However, if the egg isn’t released or the follicle doesn’t break down properly, it can grow into an ovarian cyst, which is simply a fluid-filled sac that sits in the ovary. These cysts usually disappear within a few months and are completely harmless. However, a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome can cause large numbers of cysts to develop from egg follicles that fail to mature properly. This can cause menstrual problems and other symptoms, which can be relieved with proper treatment.

Pathological Ovarian Cysts

However, ovarian cysts can sometimes develop because of abnormal cell growth and these pathological ovarian cysts can be more problematic. A pathological cyst can grow from the cells of the ovary itself or the cells that are supposed to be developing into mature eggs, and they can develop whether you are still menstruating or you have been through the menopause. Although many of these ovarian cysts are benign and harmless, some of them can grow large enough to start causing problems if they burst or get in the way of the blood supply to your ovaries. Some of these cysts can also develop into ovarian cancer, although this is rare. If there is a risk of cancer or the cyst grows too large and starts causing symptoms, it might need to be removed surgically.

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