Women of all ages often have cysts on their ovaries. These fluid-filled sacs can form on one or both ovaries and are usually harmless. But in some cases, an ovarian cyst can become dangerous and cause a lot of pain, discomfort, and even problems that can be life-threatening.
This article looks at the different types of ovarian cysts, their causes, symptoms, and treatments in order to answer the question, “What size of ovarian cyst is dangerous?”
What is an ovarian cyst?
Before going any further, it’s important to know what an ovarian cyst is. A fluid-filled sac that forms on or inside the ovary is called an ovarian cyst. Cysts can be anywhere between a few millimeters and a few centimeters in size.
Most ovarian cysts don’t hurt and don’t make you feel sick. However, they can sometimes get bigger and cause pain, discomfort, or other problems.
Types of Ovarian Cysts
There are two main kinds of ovarian cysts: those that do something and those that don’t.
Functional ovarian cysts
The most common kind of ovarian cyst is one that doesn’t hurt the body. They form when the ovaries do what they are supposed to do. Functional ovarian cysts can be broken down into two types:
The most common type of functional cyst in the ovary is a follicular cyst. They happen when the egg doesn’t get out of the follicle, which is a structure that holds an egg, during ovulation. Most follicular cysts are small and don’t make you feel sick. But in some cases, they can get bigger and make you feel bad.
Corpus luteum cysts
When an egg is released from the follicle during ovulation, cysts form in the corpus luteum. After that, the follicle changes into the corpus luteum, which makes progesterone. The corpus luteum can sometimes fill with fluid and turn into a cyst. Most cysts in the corpus luteum are also small and do not cause any symptoms. But if they get bigger, they can hurt or cause other problems.
Non-functional ovarian cysts
Cysts in the ovary that don’t do anything are less common than cysts that do something. They don’t grow because the ovaries are working as they should. Instead, they are brought on by things like:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Dermoid cysts
Cysts in the ovary that don’t work can be more dangerous than those that do. They can get bigger, make symptoms worse, and even turn into cancer.
What Size of Ovarian Cyst is Dangerous?
The size of an ovarian cyst is a key factor in figuring out how dangerous it could be. Most of the time, ovarian cysts that are bigger than 5 centimeters (cm) are dangerous. But the size of the cyst doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about how bad it is. Other things must also be taken into account, like the type of cyst, where it is, and the age and health of the patient.
Small ovarian cysts
Most cysts in the ovaries are small and don’t make you feel sick. Cysts that are smaller than 5 cm are usually safe and don’t need to be treated. But if they get bigger or hurt or bother you, you may need to keep an eye on them or get rid of them.
Large ovarian cysts
Cysts in the ovary that are bigger than 5 cm can be dangerous, especially if they keep getting bigger or start to hurt. Large ovarian cysts can put pressure on the bladder or bowel, which can lead to having to go to the bathroom often or not being able to go.
They can also cause pain in the pelvis, bloating, and stomach pain. A large ovarian cyst can sometimes burst, causing a lot of pain and bleeding inside the body.
Complex ovarian cysts
Complex ovarian cysts are a type of ovarian cyst that is not working and has both solid and liquid parts. Because they have a higher chance of being cancerous, they can be more dangerous than simple ovarian cysts. Complex ovarian cysts need to be carefully watched and may need to be taken out to avoid problems.
Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts
Most ovarian cysts don’t hurt and are only found during a regular pelvic exam or ultrasound. But some ovarian cysts can cause things like:
- Pain or trouble in the pelvis
- Bloating or a swollen stomach
- Feeling sick or puking
- Pain during a sexual act
- Changes in the time between periods
- Trouble getting the bladder to empty
How to Treat Ovarian Cysts
Ovarian cysts are treated differently depending on their size, type, and symptoms. Most functional ovarian cysts don’t need treatment and will go away on their own in a few weeks. But if a functional ovarian cyst gets bigger or hurts or bothers you, it may need to be checked on or taken out.
Cysts in the ovary that don’t work may need more aggressive treatment, like surgery, especially if they are big or have cancer. During surgery, only the cyst or the whole ovary may be taken out, depending on how bad the cyst is and how old and healthy the patient is.
Can cysts on the ovaries turn into cancer?
Cysts in the ovary that don’t work, especially complex cysts, are more likely to be cancerous. It is important to keep an eye on these cysts and get rid of them if needed.
Can ovarian cysts make it hard to get pregnant?
Most ovarian cysts don’t make it hard to get pregnant. But if a cyst is big or hurts the ovary a lot, it could make it hard to get pregnant.
Can cysts on the ovaries make you gain weight?
Ovarian cysts can lead to bloating or swelling in the abdomen, which can look like weight gain. But they don’t make you gain weight in a direct way.
Can Cysts in the ovary can go away on their own?
Most ovarian cysts that are still working will go away on their own in a few weeks. Ovarian cysts that don’t work may need treatment, like surgery.
How are cysts in the ovary found?
A pelvic exam, an ultrasound, or other imaging tests can find ovarian cysts. Your doctor may also want to check your blood for hormone imbalances or other problems.
Women of all ages often have cysts on their ovaries. Most ovarian cysts don’t hurt and don’t make you feel sick. But in some cases, ovarian cysts can become dangerous and cause a lot of pain, discomfort, and even problems that can be life-threatening.
The size of an ovarian cyst is a key factor in figuring out how dangerous it could be. Cysts in the ovary that are bigger than 5 cm can be dangerous, especially if they keep getting bigger or start to hurt. If you have any signs of ovarian cysts, you should see a doctor to find out what’s wrong and get treatment.