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Endometriosis

How long does a period last? What to know

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Menstruation, or a period of time, occurs when uterine lining exits through the vagina. The length of an individual’s phase can vary.

However, a period will usually last about 4–8 days.

This article will address a typical menstrual period’s average duration and a few factors that might influence it. More generally it also provides some information about the menstrual cycle.

The menstrual cycle by stage

A person’s period may last around 4–8 days.

The menstrual cycle refers to several hormonal changes which occur when the body of a female prepares for pregnancy.

A complete menstrual cycle starts on a period’s first day, and ends the day before the next one.

A typical time period lasts around 4–8 days. The full cycle, however, appears to last for 25–30 days.

Cycles that last less than 21 days are called “polymenorrhea.”

The normal menstrual cycle consists of:

  • Days 1–5: Follicles that contain an egg develop on the ovaries. This is when the bleeding occurs.
  • Days 6–8: Estrogen levels rise, causing the uterine lining to thicken. Day 8 is typically when the bleeding stops.
  • Day 14: Estrogen levels rise, causing the follicle to release the egg. This is called ovulation.
  • Days 15–24: Progesterone levels rise, thickening the lining of the uterus even more.
  • Days 25–28: Estrogen and progesterone levels drop. The unfertilized egg will leave the body, and the cycle will start all over again.

Effects

Many people undergo premenstrual syndrome (PMS) near the beginning of their menstrual cycle.

Symptoms of PMS typically start a few days to 2 weeks before the period begins and ends when the process is over.

Other PMS symptoms include:

  • bloating
  • cramping
  • irritability
  • fatigue
  • changes in appetite
  • depression
  • mood changes
  • changes in bowel movement

What can affect the duration of a period?

Several possible factors can affect the duration of a period. These include:

  • Age: According to the Office on Women’s Health, for a few years after a person’s first period, the cycle may be longer than 38 days. As a person reaches middle age, however, they may start to experience irregular periods as menopause approaches.
  • Body weight: According to some research, body weight can affect a person’s menstrual function.
  • Certain medications: Some types of birth control can affect a person’s bleeding pattern.

Causes of long periods

Certain factors and conditions may lead to a lengthier than usual period. Those factors are described in more detail in the following sections.

Intrauterine devices

Since having a non-hormonal or hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) some people may experience irregular bleeding or spotting for a few months.

Once the body adjusts to the new IUD, the bleeding will return to normal, reduce or stop altogether.

Diagnosis

If they continue to experience heavy menstrual bleeding several months after getting an IUD, a person may wish to contact their doctor.

This can happen if the uterine wall is punctured by an IUD, or if the patient develops a bacterial infection in the uterus.

A doctor will test for signs of physical harm and the existence of potential infections.

Treatment

If someone experiences severe menstrual bleeding, a doctor may recommend using a different IUD or another form of birth control.

If the uterine wall is punctured by an IUD, a physician will remove the IUD, and may recommend surgery.

Perimenopause

Perimenopause, which causes fluctuating hormone levels, occurs when the body begins a transition to menopause. People achieve menopause approximately 1 year after their last cycle.

Perimenopause can cause anovulation which occurs when an egg is not released by the ovaries.

The presence of a mature egg stimulates progesterone development which helps to regulate menstrual periods. Nevertheless, a lack of progesterone can cause severe bleeding.

Diagnosis

No single test will decide if a person has reached perimenopause, or not.

A doctor can confirm perimenopause by evaluating the medical history of the person and the current symptoms.

Some doctors may order blood tests to check the hormone levels of an individual, and rule out other medical conditions that may trigger longer periods.

Treatment

Perimenopause occurs as the female body transitions into menopause, naturally.

A doctor may recommend certain treatments which may help to ease the symptoms of a person. Hormonal birth control, for example, can help soothe hot flashes and irregular periods.

Getting regular exercise, eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep every night may also help some people make the transition easier.

Pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) refers to an infection of the female reproductive organs.

People can get PID from:

  • untreated sexually transmitted infections
  • IUDs
  • using feminine hygiene products, such as douches

PID can cause:

  • heavy bleeding
  • spotting or bleeding between periods
  • unusual vaginal discharge
  • lower abdominal pain
  • fever

Diagnosis

A doctor can diagnose PID by examining the medical history of the individual, performing a pelvic exam and evaluating any discharge from the vagina.

Treatment

Doctors can take antibiotics to treat PID.

Immediately after initiation of antibiotic treatment, the symptoms can resolve. Even if that is the case, though, people should always complete the antibiotic course.

It guarantees the treatment of the infection, which helps to prevent reinfection.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a medical condition arising when the tissue surrounding the uterus expands outside the uterus. Ovaries and fallopian tubes are commonly affected areas.

This condition is capable of making cycles longer than usual. It may also cause severe menstrual cramps and backache

Diagnosis

A doctor can diagnose endometriosis with a laparoscopy performed. They will use a camera— inserted into the pelvis by a small incision near the belly button— to examine the pelvic organs during that procedure.

In particular, they’ll look behind the uterus for cysts, scarring, or abnormal tissue deposits.

Doctors may also use ultrasonic scans to locate endometriosis cysts they may have missed during a pelvic examination.

Treatment

There is actually no treatment for endometriosis. Therapies tend to focus on alleviating pain, and addressing concerns regarding fertility.

Endometriosis therapies differ according to a person’s age, state of health, and seriousness of disease.

Endometriosis treatment options include:

  • over-the-counter or prescription pain medication
  • hormone therapy
  • surgical removal of any cysts

Causes of short periods

The following sections will address some causes and circumstances that may result in a shorter period than normal.

Hormonal birth control

Hormonal birth control includes hormones that can either thicken the mucus lining the cervix or inhibit ovulation, including oestrogen and progestin.

People starting a new type of hormonal birth control can experience periods of irregularity.

They may however find that, over time, their times become lighter. People with an IUD can cease to have periods at all.

Diagnosis

A doctor will discuss the possible side effects and what to expect when a person starts a new form of hormonal birth control.

Any new or deteriorating symptoms that you encounter while using hormonal birth control can be talked to your doctor.

A doctor may do a physical exam or conduct blood tests to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Treatment

A doctor may suggest an alternative type of birth control which may help with the symptoms.

For example, if a person has an IUD but wants to have regular periods, the doctor may instead recommend switching to hormonal birth control pills.

Polycystic ovary syndrome

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common health condition affecting up to 5 million people in the United States.

PCOS happens when bags filled with fluid develop on the ovaries. The exact cause remains unknown, but people with PCOS appear to be called androgens with elevated levels of insulin and male hormones.

Androgens can inhibit ovulation which may cause periods of irregularity.

Those with PCOS may have fewer days than average, or may skip entire periods of time.

Other PCOS signs include:

  • excess hair on the face and body
  • acne
  • hair loss
  • unexpected weight gain

Diagnosis

Doctors are able to diagnose PCOS by blood testing.

We use those tests to check the hormone levels of an individual. People who have high androgen levels may possess PCOS.

They may also conduct a pelvic or ultrasonic examination to check for signs of endometriosis.

Treatment

PCOS treatments focus primarily on relieving and managing the symptoms.

Hormonal birth control and and androgen-blocking medicines can help reduce acne and regulate menstrual cycles.

A moderate body weight and a balanced diet can help regulate insulin levels.

When to see a doctor

If they find any significant changes in their menstrual cycle a person should contact their doctor.

Some other reasons to see a doctor include:

  • severe abdominal cramps
  • bleeding that lasts for longer than 8 days
  • bleeding or spotting between periods
  • unusual vaginal discharge
  • fever

Summary

Typically, the periods occur once every 28 days, and the bleeding lasts about 4–8 days.

Several factors can affect the duration of a person’s time. Including:

  • age
  • hormone levels
  • body weight
  • diet
  • medications

When noticing any significant changes in the frequency or duration of their periods, a person should contact a doctor.

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Endometriosis

Deeply infiltrative endometriosis: What to know

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Deeply infiltrative endometriosis is an uncommon and severe type of endometriosis. It, like other types of endometriosis, causes the growth of uterine lining-like tissue in other parts of the body.

Deeply infiltrative endometriosis is a type of severe endometriosis that has progressed to organs close to or inside the pelvic cavity. This has the potential to harm the bladder, intestines, reproductive system, and other organs. It causes inflammation, which results in scar tissue known as adhesions.

Excruciating menstrual periods, pain during sex, chronic pelvic pain, difficulty peeing, and digestive difficulties are all indications of deeply infiltrative endometriosis. It may also have an impact on a person’s fertility. Although the condition can be severe, doctors find it difficult to diagnose because symptoms overlap with those of other health concerns.

This article discusses the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of profoundly infiltrative endometriosis. It also examines problems and fertility.

Definition

deeply infiltrative endometriosis

Endometriosis of the deep infiltrative kind is a type of endometriosis. Endometriosis causes endometrial tissue to grow in locations other than the uterus, such as the pelvis or abdomen.

These tissues function similarly to the endometrium in that they accumulate and shed during the menstrual cycle. However, because there is no route for this tissue to exit the body, it becomes stuck, causing inflammation, scarring, and cysts.

Endometriosis is classified as kind and stage based on its location, depth, and amount of tissue affected.

Endometriosis is classified into four types:

  • deeply infiltrative endometriosis
  • abdominal wall endometriosis
  • superficial peritoneal endometriosis
  • endometrioma

The American Society of Reproductive Medicine defined four phases of endometriosis severity in 1996:

  • Stage 1 (minimal): At this stage, there are few implants and little to no scar tissue.
  • Stage 2 (mild): There are implants deeper in the tissue at this stage, as well as some scar tissue.
  • Stage 3 (moderate): At this point, there are several deep implants, maybe with cysts on the ovaries and thick regions of scar tissue known as adhesions.
  • Stage 4 (severe): At this stage, there are several implants, some of which are deep, with dense adhesions and big cysts on one or both ovaries.

Deeply infiltrative endometriosis is uncommon, affecting just around 1% of women of reproductive age. It is a severe form of endometriosis in which endometrial tissues invade organs within the pelvis, abdomen, and other areas, such as:

  • ureters
  • lungs
  • umbilicus
  • diaphragm
  • peritoneum
  • abdominal surgical scars
  • ovaries
  • vagina
  • cervix
  • fallopian tubes
  • bowel
  • rectum
  • bladder

Symptoms

When it comes to endometriosis, a person’s disease stage does not always correspond to their amount of pain. A person, for example, may have few adhesions but excruciating cramping pain. A person may have severe profoundly infiltrative endometriosis with no symptoms.

Endometriosis symptoms vary depending on the location of the body affected. Lesions linked with profoundly infiltrative endometriosis frequently damage nerve-rich areas, causing significant discomfort and pain.

Reproductive tract

Endometriosis people frequently endure significant cramping and pain during menstruation. Doctors call this dysmenorrhea.

They may also have pain during sexual activity as well as nonspecific pelvic pain. This pain could be chronic or just occur at certain points of the menstrual cycle.

Because the condition can change the structure of the pelvis and cause scar tissue to form, deeply infiltrative endometriosis can also impact fertility.

Urinary tract

Endometriosis of the bladder or urinary tract can cause the following symptoms:

  • experience burning sensations when urinating
  • have blood in their urine
  • feel pain when the bladder is full
  • often feel the need to urinate urgently

Endometriosis of the bladder can also cause pelvic and lower back pain.

Bowel

Endometrial tissue can grow anywhere in the intestine, but according to 2014 research, approximately 9 out of 10 occurrences of bowel endometriosis affect the rectum or sigmoid colon.

Among the symptoms are:

  • constipation
  • painful bowel movements
  • diarrhea
  • general pelvic pain
  • pain during sexual intercourse

Symptoms frequently vary across people and with the menstrual cycle.

Diagnosis

Doctors may struggle to diagnose endometriosis because there is no single test that can confirm the condition. Symptoms may also be similar to those of other health issues.

A laparoscopy is often the best technique to diagnose endometriosis, but it is fraught with complications. As a result, doctors may employ a combination of the following:

Laparoscopy is most typically used by doctors to confirm the presence of endometriosis and to assess the severity of the condition. During the operation, a surgeon inserts a camera or laparoscope through a small incision in the pelvis to see if endometriosis is present.

Treatment

Although there is no cure for endometriosis, there are numerous treatment methods that may provide relief from severe symptoms.

The goal of treatment may be to alleviate pain, increase fertility, limit the growth of endometriosis tissue, or prevent it from reoccurring.

Conservative surgery

The surgeon’s goal with conservative surgery is to remove only affected tissue while leaving healthy tissue alone.

A surgeon can utilize a variety of procedures to treat endometriosis, but laparoscopic surgery (laparoscopic excision) is the gold standard. During this operation, the surgeon uses as little heat and electricity as possible to remove or cut the entire lesion from wherever it is in the body.

Laser ablation is frequently used by surgeons to eliminate endometriosis lesions, however there is a danger of harming surrounding healthy tissue. In most cases, ablation is not long-term beneficial. The best approach is laparoscopic excision.

Definitive surgery

If endometriosis affects a specific organ, a surgeon may recommend surgical removal of the affected organ. During a hysterectomy, for example, the surgeon may remove the uterus. The ovaries and cervix may also be removed. It is critical to remember, however, that a hysterectomy does not cure endometriosis because the implants frequently arise in other locations.

Medication for pain relief

To relieve pain, anti-inflammatory medications such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may be used. If these over-the-counter solutions do not provide relief, they may choose to consult with a doctor about prescription options.

Hormone therapy

A doctor may advise hormone therapy to reduce estrogen production in the body, as this hormone promotes the development of endometriosis tissue.

The combined oral contraceptive pill, progesterone-only options such as the minipill, Depo-Provera, the progesterone intrauterine system, and the contraceptive implant are all hormone treatment choices. Injections of leuprolide acetate (Lupron), a more potent hormonal therapy, are also a possibility.

Complications

Complications like as adhesions and a frozen pelvis are possible in people with deeply infiltrative endometriosis.

Adhesions are fibrous bands of scar tissue that occur as a result of injuries, surgery, or the body’s reaction to the inflammation caused by endometriosis implants.

A frozen pelvis occurs when the organs of the pelvis become linked to one another by adhesions and “frozen” in position. Operating on a frozen pelvis is extremely difficult since the anatomy is deformed, increasing problems.

Fertility

Endometriosis that is deeply infiltrative can impact a woman’s fertility. Adhesions can, for example, hinder eggs from traveling or implanting in the uterus. They can also block off the ovaries’ blood supply or trap blood in the ovaries, resulting in cysts.

According to studies, 30–50 percent of people with endometriosis are unable to conceive. Experts, on the other hand, have yet to confirm the link between the two.

Another thing worth mentioning is that if a person with deeply infiltrative endometriosis becomes pregnant, her chances of having a cesarean section are doubled when compared to people without endometriosis.

Questions to ask a doctor

If a woman has deeply infiltrative endometriosis, it’s critical to have an open and honest conversation with her doctor about her diagnosis and treatment options.

The questions below are an excellent place to start:

  • Can I have surgery to remove the adhesions?
  • Is the surgery risky for my situation?
  • Where are the adhesions located?
  • What are the treatment options?
  • Do I have extensive adhesions?
  • Will the endometriosis implants affect my fertility?

People can get support and information from organizations like the Endometriosis Association to assist them advocate for their own health. People with endometriosis can get help, education, and support from this organization.

Conclusion

Endometriosis with deep infiltrative endometriosis is an uncommon but serious type of endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a condition in which tissues that mimic the uterine lining grow and implant in other parts of the body, such as the bladder, lungs, and digestive tract.

These implants can cause scar tissue adhesions, causing pain and affecting a person’s fertility.

These implants have spread outside of the pelvis in cases with profoundly infiltrative endometriosis. As a result, it may cause problems with bladder and bowel function, as well as chronic pelvic pain, penetrative sex pain, and severe period cramps.

Pain medicines, hormone therapies, and surgery to remove adhesions are some of the therapeutic choices that may help an individual’s symptoms.

Sources:

  • https://pubs.rsna.org/doi/full/10.1148/rg.2018170093
  • https://www.endofound.org/endometriosis-treatment-support
  • https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/24/4/827/632224
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2905889/
  • https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/339519
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-to-know-about-deeply-infiltrative-endometriosis
  • https://www.jmig.org/article/S1553-4650(20)30093-5/fulltext
  • https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(97)81391-X/pdf
  • https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/endometriosis/treatment/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK567777/
  • https://gynecolsurg.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s10397-019-1065-9
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4229526/
  • https://www.endometriosis-uk.org/your-laparoscopy

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Endocrinology

What to eat during your period to help you feel better

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Some studies suggest that dietary adjustments may help minimize period symptoms, while research is still in its early stages.

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can help reduce period symptoms like bloating and pain in some circumstances. During menstruation, however, a person may choose to take additional efforts to ease symptoms and maintain their overall health.

This article examines foods that people should consume during their period to help alleviate symptoms.

Best foods to consume

doctor discussing period symptoms with a lady

Specific meals may help ease certain period symptoms, according to some data. According to the Office on Women’s Health, around 90% of women suffer from premenstrual symptoms such as:

The foods listed below have been shown to help with period-related symptoms.

Vegetables and fruits

Fruit and vegetables are an important source of nutrients and fiber for everyone, but they may be especially beneficial during menstruation.

In a 2018 research of Spanish university students, vegetarian diets and just eating more fruits and vegetables were linked to fewer cramps and less menstrual pain.

This was true in several of the trials examined by the authors, but it did not appear to help people with endometriosis.

Water

Drinking adequate water is vital for good health, and it can help prevent dehydration headaches during menstruation. It can also help you avoid bloating and water retention.

The American Dietary Guidelines for 2015-2020 do not include a daily water intake. The National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom, on the other hand, suggests consuming 6–8 glasses of water per day.

Seafood and fish

Omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in salmon, tuna, sardines, and oysters. These nutrients can help with period pain by reducing inflammation in the body.

The effect of omega-3 supplementation on the degree of menstruation pain in women aged 18–22 years old was investigated in a study published in 2012.

The omega-3 supplements were given to one group, while the placebo was given to the other. The pain severity of the omega-3 group participants was significantly reduced. They also took fewer ibuprofen doses to manage their pain.

Omega-3s may also help with depression, according to a 2014 study. Those who endure mood swings and poor mood around their period may benefit from this.

Omega-3s can also be found in the following foods:

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is delicious and high in iron and magnesium.

Iron deficiency can be avoided by eating adequate iron. Menstruation causes a drop in iron levels as a person sheds blood, which can lead to anemia in those who have very heavy periods. People who have heavy periods or menorrhagia lose much more iron during their menstrual cycle than those who have “regular menstrual bleeding,” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

3.4 milligrams (mg) of iron are found in a 1 ounce portion of dark chocolate. This amounts to around 19% of the recommended daily consumption of 18 mg for adult females.

Dark chocolate also delivers a boost of magnesium. According to a 2015 study, people who are deficient in magnesium are more likely to have severe PMS symptoms.

Lentils and beans

Lentils and beans are high in protein and a good source of iron. Protein is vital for good health, and it may also help control cravings for less healthful foods during menstruation.

Legumes also contain zinc, which is an important mineral. Zinc was reported to help relieve unpleasant menstrual cramps in a 2007 study.

Foods to avoid

Some meals can help with period symptoms while others can make them worse. These are typically foods that cause bloating or inflammation.

Foods to stay away from include:

  • highly processed foods, also known as ultra-processed foods
  • foods high in sugar
  • goods baked using white flour, such as white bread or pasta
  • foods that cause gas, such as cauliflower or Brussels sprouts

Additionally, limiting sodium consumption can aid in the reduction of bloating and weight gain associated with menstruation. According to a 2019 study, increasing sodium intake may increase the likelihood of bloating. It’s important noting, however, that this study focused on bloating in general, not period-related bloating.

According to the American Heart Association, most people should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Maintaining salt levels below this level can aid in bloating reduction.

Foods to shorten periods

Despite the scarcity of study in this area, it appears that foods containing specific nutrients may help to shorten the duration of a period.

Vitamin B6 is one such example. According to a 1983 study, this vitamin balances menstrual hormones by lowering estrogen and increasing progesterone. This could perhaps shorten a period and alleviate PMS symptoms.

Vitamin B6 can be found in a variety of foods. Fish, organ meats, potatoes, and starchy vegetables are among the best sources.

Myrtle fruit syrup may also aid, though it’s not frequent. In a 2014 research of 30 people, daily doses of syrup were found to reduce the amount of bleeding days while also reducing pain. Because of the small sample size, more research is needed to determine whether myrtle fruit syrup can help with bleeding and pain.

When to contact a doctor

While many menstruation symptoms are common, people should see a doctor if they have any of the following:

  • bleeding after sex
  • irregular periods
  • spotting or bleeding between periods
  • bleeding after menopause
  • heavy bleeding
  • bleeding that lasts longer than 7 days
  • severe pain or pain that does not go away with OTC pain relievers

Conclusion

When a person is losing blood, for example, consuming iron-rich meals can help replenish iron levels. Magnesium and zinc, among other minerals, may assist to alleviate discomfort.

Severe or irregular periods should be discussed with a doctor, since they may indicate an underlying condition that requires medical attention.

Sources:

  • https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/previous-dietary-guidelines/2015
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6684167
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28707491
  • https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/177/10/1118/100730
  • https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170273/nutrients
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27346251/
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17289285/
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-to-eat-on-your-period
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6086430/
  • https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2014/313570/
  • https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/blooddisorders/women/menorrhagia.html
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24190696
  • https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/
  • https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31206400
  • https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/premenstrual-syndrome
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4079189/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4667262/
  • https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/
  • https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/#h3

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Endometriosis

Ovarian cysts: Things you need to know

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An ovarian cyst develops as the fluid builds up within the ovary inside a thin membrane. The size can vary from as small as a pea to greater than an orange.

A cyst is a closed structure that resembles a sac. This is separated by a membrane from the surrounding tissue. It is an abnormal fluid pocket, similar to that of a burn. It comprises material which is either liquid, gaseous or semi-solid. The outer or capsular portion of a cyst is called the cyst wall.

It’s different from an abscess, because it’s not pus-filled. A pus-filled sac is an abscess.

The majority of ovarian cysts are small and harmless. They occur most commonly during reproductive years but at any age they can appear.

Sometimes there are no signs or symptoms, but occasionally the ovarian cysts may cause pain and bleeding. When the cyst has a diameter of more than 5 centimetres, it may need to be removed surgically.

Important facts about ovarian cysts:

  • An ovarian cyst is a buildup of fluid within an ovary surrounded by a thin shell, or membrane.
  • Ovarian cysts are usually harmless, but a large one may need to be removed.
  • There are two main types of ovarian cysts: functional ovarian cysts and pathological cysts.
  • In most cases, ovarian cysts will cause no signs or symptoms.

Causes

There are two main types of ovarian cysts:

A doctor working with microscope
Cysts can develop anywhere on the body, some may be microscopically small and others very large.
  • Functional ovarian cysts – the most common type. These harmless cysts form part of the female’s normal menstrual cycle and are short-lived.
  • Pathological cysts – these are cysts that grow in the ovaries; they may be harmless or cancerous (malignant).

The causes are different for each type. We will look at each type in turn.

Functional ovarian cysts

There are two types of functional ovarian cysts:

1) Follicular cysts

The most common form of follicular cysts is. A woman does have two ovaries. The egg travels into the womb from an ovary, where it can be fertilized by sperm. The egg is produced in the follicle, containing fluid that protects the growing egg. The follicle bursts, as the egg is released.

For certain cases, after release of the egg, the follicle either does not lose its fluid and contract, or it does not release an egg. The follicle swells with blood, becoming an ovarian follicular cyst.

Usually one cyst emerges at any given time, and it usually goes away within a few weeks.

2) Luteal ovarian cysts

These are less common. This leaves tissue behind, known as the corpus luteum, after the egg is released. Luteal cysts can form when blood is filled in to the corpus luteum. Typically this form of cyst goes away within a few months. Often, however, it may split, or crack, causing sudden pain and internal bleeding.

Pathological cysts

There are two types of pathological cysts:

1) Dermoid cysts (cystic teratomas)

In general, a dermoid cyst is benign. They are created from the cells which produce eggs. Such cysts ought to be surgically removed. Dermoid cysts are the most common form of pathologic cyst for women under the age of 30.

2) Cystadenomas

Cystadenomas are ovarian cysts that grow out of cells covering the outer ovary. Others are filled with a thick, mucous substance while others are filled with a watery liquid.

Cystadenomas are normally connected to the ovary by a stem, instead of developing inside the ovary. They can grow very large by living outside of the ovary. They are rarely cancerous but need surgically removed.

Cystadenomas are more common in women over 40 years old.

Signs and symptoms

Most cysts are non-symptomatic. If signs are present, they are not necessarily helpful to diagnose an ovarian cyst since other disorders have similar symptoms, such as endometriosis.

Symptoms of an ovarian cyst may include:

  • Irregular and possibly painful menstruation: It may be heavier or lighter than before.
  • Pain in the pelvis: This may be a persistent pain or an intermittent dull ache that spreads to the lower back and thighs. It may appear just before menstruation begins or ends.
  • Dyspareunia: This is pelvic pain that occurs during sexual intercourse. Some women might experience pain and discomfort in the abdomen after sex.
  • Bowel issues: These include pain when passing a stool, pressure on the bowels or a frequent need to pass a stool.
  • Abdominal issues: There may be bloating, swelling, or heaviness in the abdomen.
  • Urinary issues: The woman may have problems emptying the bladder fully or she may or feeling the need to urinate frequently.
  • Hormonal abnormalities: Rarely, the body produces abnormal amounts of hormones, resulting in changes in the way the breasts and body hair grow.

Some symptoms may resemble those of pregnancy, for example, breast tenderness and nausea.

Complications

An ovarian cyst often causes no problems, but sometimes it can lead to complications.

  • Torsion: The stem of an ovary can become twisted if the cyst is growing on it. It can block the blood supply to the cyst and cause severe pain in the lower abdomen.
  • Burst cyst: If a cyst bursts, the patient will experience severe pain in the lower abdomen. If the cyst is infected, pain will be worse. There may also be bleeding. Symptoms may resemble those of appendicitis or diverticulitis.
  • Cancer: In rare cases, a cyst may be an early form of ovarian cancer.

Treatment

Treatment will depend on:

  • the person’s age
  • whether they have undergone menopause or not
  • the size and appearance of the cyst
  • whether there are any symptoms

Watchful waiting (observation)

Watchful waiting is often recommended , especially if the cyst is a tiny, functional cyst (2 to 5 centimeters) and the woman has not yet had a menopause

An ultrasonography scan will check the cyst a month or so later to see if it has gone

Birth control pills

The doctor can prescribe birth control pills to reduce the risk of new cysts forming in future menstrual cycles. Oral contraceptives may also reduce the risk that ovarian cancer can develop.

Surgery

A female doctor with her patient
Surgery may be used as a treatment for persistent cysts.

Surgery may be recommended if:

  • there are symptoms
  • the cyst is large or appears to be growing
  • the cyst does not look like a functional cyst
  • the cyst persists through 2 to 3 menstrual cycles.

Two types of surgery are:

  • Laparoscopy, or keyhole surgery: The surgeon uses very small tools, to remove the cyst through a small incision. In most cases, the patient can go home the same day. This type of surgery does not usually affect fertility, and recovery times are fast.
  • Laparotomy: This may be recommended if the cyst is cancerous. A longer cut is made across the top of the pubic hairline. The cyst is removed and sent to the lab for testing. The patient usually stays in the hospital for at least 2 days.

Cancer treatment

Unless the cyst is cancerous, a biopsy can be performed for examination.

When the test indicates cancer, more organs and tissue, such as the ovaries and the uterus, can need to be removed.

Diagnosis

Ultrasound is a common method of diagnosis of ovarian cyst.
Ultrasound is a common method of diagnosis of ovarian cyst.

Most ovarian cysts do not exhibit signs or symptoms, so they still remain undiagnosed.

A cyst not causing symptoms may often be detected through an unrelated pelvic or ultrasound scan.

Diagnosis is aimed at determining the cyst ‘s form, size and composition, whether it is filled with solid or liquid.

Tests for Diagnosis can include:

  • an ultrasound scan
  • a blood test
  • a pregnancy test
  • laparoscopy

Prevention

There is no way to prevent development of the ovarian cysts.

Regular pelvic checks, however, may allow early treatment where appropriate. This can also avoid complications from happening.

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