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Ovarian Cysts

Updated: Mar 16, 2022

Did you know that you can have ovarian cysts without having PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)?

Ovarian cysts is a topic that I'm very passionate about. At the age of 13 I had surgery to remove my left ovary due to a large ruptured ovarian cyst and have been prone to cysts ever since.

So let's talk about the difference between PCOS and ovarian cysts. To be diagnosed with PCOS, you must have 2 of the following 3 symptoms:

1. Irregular or no period

2. High levels of male hormones (androgens)

  • From a blood test or symptoms such as: excess facial or body hair growth, hair loss on the head or acne

3. Polycystic ovaries

  • Visible through an ultrasound

  • Ovaries are enlarged and contain more than 20 fluid-filled sacs (follicles) on one or both ovaries

As you see above, you can have PCOS without having cysts and you can polycystic ovaries without having PCOS. So let's talk about cysts specifically.

What are Ovarian Cysts?

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs in one or both ovaries. Usually most ovarian cysts are harmless and occur naturally with ovulation. They typically resolve on their own without treatment but some cases (if you're like me), ovarian cysts can rupture and can cause serious symptoms.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts

Ovarian cysts can cause symptoms such as:

  • Menstrual irregularities

  • Pelvic pain shortly before your menses begins or ends

  • Constant or intermittent pelvic pain or ache, possibly radiating to your lower back and thighs

  • Pain during bowel movements or sexual intercourse

  • Sensation of pressure on your rectum or bladder

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Sensation of abdominal fullness

  • Breast tenderness

  • Pain during ovulation

It is also possible to have ovarian cysts with no symptoms at all. There are many women who have cysts and don't actually know they have them until they either get an ultrasound or until the cysts burst and cause excruciating pain.

Types of Cysts

1. Follicular cyst: this is the most common type of ovarian cyst. Your ovaries develop cyst-like follicles every month, but if the follicle doesn't burst/release its egg then it will continue to grow causing a follicular cyst

2. Corpus luteum cyst: this type of cyst is formed after an egg has been released from a follicle. This follicle is now called the corpus luteum and begins producing estrogen and progesterone for conception. If pregnancy doesn't occur, the corpus luteum usually breaks down and disappears, but sometimes the corpus luteum closes up, fills up with fluid and forms a sac which becomes a cyst.

3. Dermoid cysts: these cysts are usually present at birth. They grow slowly and can contain solid structures like hair, fluid, teeth, or skin glands.

4. Cystadenomas: these types of cysts usually attached to the ovary, rather than grow inside of it. Some are filled with a watery liquid while others are filled with a thick, mucus-like substance.

5. Endometriomas: these are a type of cyst that develops in women with endometriosis. They may also be referred to as chocolate cysts. They get their name from their brown appearance, which is due to old menstrual blood and tissue.

6. Hemorrhagic cysts: this is when the cyst bleeds.

What causes Ovarian Cysts?

  • Hormone imbalance

  • Irregular menstrual cycles

  • Early menstruation (11 years or younger)

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Smoking cigarettes

  • Stress

  • Endometriosis

  • Infertility treatment with gonadotropins

  • Use of Clomiphene (Clomid, Serophene) has been shown to increase the risk for development of Corpus Luteum cysts

  • Use of Tamoxifen for breast cancer

How Can a Nutritionist Help?

Working with a Nutritionist will help get to the root cause of the issue and come up with a game plan tailored to you!

If you'd like to work together, book your appointment here.


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