It’s easy to confuse ovarian cysts with polycystic ovary syndrome. For one thing, they both involve the ovaries and share some similarities. However, not everyone who has ovarian cysts also has PCOS. As you probably know by now, when it comes to your health, it’s always best to be well-informed — especially if something as serious as PCOS is on the table! So take a deep breath and read this article for all the facts about ovarian cysts.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a condition that causes a woman to have high levels of androgens, or “male hormones,” in her body. This hormone imbalance can lead to irregular menstrual cycles, unwanted hair growth and acne, weight gain (especially around the middle), depression, anxiety, and difficulty getting pregnant.
Although the exact cause of PCOS isn’t known, it’s thought that genetics may play a role in developing this condition. We also know that some women with PCOS have insulin resistance — when the body doesn’t use insulin properly — which also leads to higher-than-normal amounts of male hormones in the bloodstream. These elevated levels of male hormones can disrupt your ovulation cycle by making it difficult for an egg to be released from your ovaries each month (ovulation).
Is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) treatable?
A common question for people with PCOS is: “Is PCOS treatable?”
The answer is yes. The symptoms of PCOS are often treated with medication or surgery. Still, to understand the full scope of treatment options available, we need to take a closer look at the condition itself. What causes it? How does it affect your body? What can you do about it?
First and foremost, let’s clear up one thing: Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is not contagious or life-threatening. It’s also not a mental illness; it doesn’t mean that someone who has it will have mental health problems later in life, though some women may experience symptoms such as depression or anxiety related to their condition.
How does it affect your body? The symptoms of PCOS can cause significant problems for women and their families. While many women with PCOS go on to have normal pregnancies, some may have trouble getting pregnant or carrying a baby to term. If you have trouble conceiving, talk to your doctor about testing for PCOS before undergoing fertility treatments.
In addition, women with PCOS are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is especially important to know if you have a family history of diabetes or obesity.
What is an ovarian cyst?
An ovarian cyst is a sac with fluid that grows on or in the ovary. Ovarian cysts are common, especially among women of reproductive age. Nearly 50 percent of women have had at least one.
Some ovarian cysts signify polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormone disorder that affects the menstrual cycle and can cause infertility. Different conditions may cause other types of ovarian cysts unrelated to PCOS.
None of these types are cancerous, so there’s no need to worry about them spreading throughout your body—they’re just annoying!
The most common symptom of an ovarian cyst is abdominal pain. This may also be accompanied by bloating, feeling full more quickly than usual, constipation and diarrhea. If you have any of these symptoms, it’s best to see your doctor so they can determine what’s causing them and rule out anything serious.
How is an ovarian cyst diagnosed?
Ovarian cysts can be diagnosed by:
- Ultrasound: This is the most common way of diagnosing an ovarian cyst, and it doesn’t require any lab work to confirm your diagnosis. Your doctor will use a transvaginal or transabdominal scan to look for and measure the size of an ovarian cyst.
- Blood test: A blood test may determine whether you have any hormones associated with PCOS, but it’s not recommended for diagnosing the condition itself; instead, it can help your doctor determine which treatments might work best for you if you have PCOS.
Treatment of ovarian cysts
The best way to treat ovarian cysts depends on the type of cyst you have. Your doctor will suggest a treatment plan based on your symptoms and the size of the cyst.
If you’re having pelvic pain, an ultrasound can help determine whether an ovarian cyst is causing it. The ultrasound may also show if there’s more than one cyst or if they’re getting bigger over time.
The different types of treatments include:
- Medication (for example, birth control pills) decreases the production of male hormones by the ovaries.
- Surgery to remove a large ovarian cyst.
Difference between ovarian cysts and PCOS
- Ovarian cysts are noncancerous growths caused by an imbalance in estrogen and progesterone levels and an increased number of immature follicles (egg sacs).
- Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form on the ovary, while PCOS is a condition that affects your menstrual cycle and ovulation.
- PCOS is a hormone imbalance that causes small cysts to appear on one or both ovaries, interfering with the normal production of hormones and possibly leading to infertility.
- Ovarian cysts can become cancerous if left untreated for too long. Most women with ovarian cysts will never develop cancer, but it does occasionally happen—most often with older women or those who have already gone through menopause. Ovarian cancer makes up about 2 percent of all cancers in American women aged 20–59 years old; however, it accounts for 15 percent of all gynecological cancer deaths because it’s not detected until later stages when invasive surgery becomes necessary.
There’s no way to prevent ovarian cancer other than having regular checkups with your doctor; however, if you’re experiencing symptoms like abdominal pain or discomfort between periods, then make sure you mention them so they can be investigated further!
Ovarian cysts are not necessarily a symptom of PCOS. Ovaries can develop cysts for many different reasons. The most important thing is to talk to your doctor if you suspect you have an ovarian cyst and get a proper diagnosis before any treatment plan is started.