Ovarian Cyst Size – Types, What’s Normal And When is Surgery Needed
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that can form on an ovary. Most ovarian cysts are benign (not cancerous) and are usually caused by conditions such as hormonal changes, pregnancy, or endometriosis.
The most common type of ovarian cyst, called a functional or ovulatory cyst, is completely normal. It is produced every month during ovulation. They are usually harmless, cause no symptoms, and usually go away on their own within a few weeks.
But this is not the only type of cyst that can form in the ovary. Some other types are rarer than cysts, which are formed each month due to ovulation.
This article will look at the different types of ovarian cysts, the typical size of each, and possible treatment options.
Types and sizes of ovarian cysts
There are many different types of ovarian cysts, each with unique causes and characteristics. The size of ovarian cysts can also vary depending on the type of cyst.
Size is also one of several factors that can help determine whether a cyst needs to be surgically removed. In general, surgery is not recommended for ovarian cysts unless they are larger than 50 to 60 millimeters (mm) (about 2 to 2.4 inches).
However, these guidelines may vary. For example, simple cysts can be left alone until they reach a size of 10 cm (4 inches). And cancerous cysts can be removed when they are small.
Let’s look at each type of ovarian cyst in more detail, as well as its typical size.
Functional cysts form when your period is normal. However, in some cases, the cyst may continue to grow. Following are two examples of functional cysts:
- Follicular: Follicular cysts form when follicles, the small sacs that store eggs and produce estrogen, fail to release an egg during ovulation. Instead, the follicle continues to grow, forming a follicular cyst.
- Corpus Luteum: A corpus luteum cyst can form when an empty follicle’s sac fails to contract after ovulation. Instead, the sac closes and begins to fill with fluid, resulting in a corpus luteum cyst.
Most functional cysts are 2 to 5 centimeters (cm) (about 3/4 to 2 inches) in size. Ovulation occurs when the cyst is 2 to 3 cm in size. However, some can be 3 to 5 inches (8 to 12 cm) long.
A dermoid cyst is also called a teratoma. It can include different types of tissue such as skin, hair and fat. Dermoid cysts are often asymptomatic, although they can cause symptoms and complications if they grow large.
This cyst is actually a type of uterine tumor. They are almost always benign and are often present from birth. Dermoid cysts can develop during a woman’s reproductive years.
These cysts usually grow slowly, growing at a rate of about 1.8 mm (about 0.07 inches) per year.
However, dermoid cysts can grow larger. Case studies show that some dermoid cysts can grow rapidly, from 0.3 to about 1 inch (8 to 25 mm) per year.
Rarely, large dermoid cysts larger than 15 cm (about 6 inches) in diameter have been reported.
A cystadenoma is a benign tumor that develops on the surface of your ovary. It may be filled with water or a viscous fluid.
When seen on ultrasound, cystadenomas often appear as active cysts. However, although functional cysts usually disappear after a few menstrual cycles, cystadenomas continue to grow.
Cystadenomas can also be quite large. While some can be small, about 1 to 3 centimeters (about an inch and a half to 1 inch), some can grow up to 30 centimeters (about a foot)!
Endometrioma develops as a result of endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition in which cells from the lining of the uterus grow outside the uterus. This tissue can adhere to the surface of the ovary and form a cyst.
An estimated 17 to 44 percent of women with endometriosis have endometriomas. These cysts are sometimes called brown cysts because they contain thick, dark blood that gives them a brown color.
Endometriomas are usually small, but like other cysts, they can vary in size.
What are the symptoms of an ovarian cyst?
Ovarian cysts often have no symptoms. When symptoms are present, they may include:
- Pain in the lower abdomen, which may be dull or sharp.
- Abdominal fullness or pressure
- Flatulence or flatulence
Other less common symptoms may include:
- Pain during sex
- Painful menstruation
- Irregular periods or bleeding between periods
- You feel like you need to urinate more often.
- Difficulty emptying the bladder or defecating
- Difficulty getting pregnant (endometrioma)
Complications of ovarian cysts are rare. Sometimes the cyst may burst open (burst), causing pain or bleeding.
In other cases, the ovary may twist around the surrounding tissue (twist), cutting off the blood supply to the ovary.
Be sure to seek emergency medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Severe abdominal pain that comes on suddenly.
- Pain accompanied by fever and vomiting.
- Feeling dizzy or weak
- Breathing fast and shallow
How are ovarian cysts be treated?
Not all ovarian cysts require treatment, and most go away on their own. Because of this, your doctor may prescribe a period of close observation to monitor your cysts and see if they disappear after a period or two.
If you’re suffering from ovarian cysts, your doctor may prescribe an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever to help ease the pain. Examples include:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
- Naproxen (Aleve)
Sometimes ovarian cysts may require surgery. It may be needed when the cyst:
- is large or starts continues growing
- Does not go away on its own after a few menstrual cycles
- Causes severe pain
- Looks abnormal or malignant (cancer) on ultrasound.
Ovarian cyst removal surgery is usually performed with a minimally invasive procedure such as laparoscopy. However, more invasive open surgery may be needed when the cyst is very large or cancer is suspected.
If you have frequent functional cysts, your doctor may prescribe hormonal birth control. Although this drug may help prevent new functional cysts from forming, it will not shrink existing cysts.
The Bottom Line
Most women develop ovarian cysts at some point in their lives. In fact, functioning ovarian cysts are a normal part of your menstrual cycle. These cysts usually have no symptoms and usually disappear within a few weeks.
Some other types of cysts, such as dermoid cysts, cystadenomas, and endometriomas, are much less common. These cysts can continue to grow and grow.
Most cysts do not need to be surgically removed. However, surgery may be recommended for larger cysts that do not go away on their own or appear abnormal on ultrasound.