Healthy New Jersey

Periods (menstruation)

Ovarian cysts

An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms on or inside an ovary. They are common and rarely cause any noticeable symptoms. Most ovarian cysts are harmless and go away on their own within a few months. Ovarian cysts can affect one or both ovaries.

Small cysts on an ovary are typical, however, many cysts that persist or grow could be a problem.


Ovarian cysts rarely cause symptoms but could cause pain if they:

  • Grow and become large
  • Break open
  • Bleed
  • Block blood supply to the ovaries
  • Twist or cause twisting (torsion) of the ovary

Symptoms of ovarian cysts could also include:

  • Constant pelvic pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain during bowel movements
  • Bloating or swelling of the abdomen
  • Pelvic pain before or after beginning your period


Ovarian cysts are more common in women of childbearing age and less common after menopause.

Fertility drugs can cause multiple ovarian follicles (cysts), but usually go away after a period or pregnancy.

Functional ovarian cysts are not the same as tumors or cysts caused by conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome.

Diagnosing an ovarian cyst

An ovarian cyst could be found through a pelvic exam or a noninvasive exam like a pelvic ultrasound that views female pelvic organs (uterus, cervix, vagina, fallopian tubes and ovaries). Your health care provider may require another exam in 6 to 8 weeks to make sure the cyst has dissolved.

The size of the cyst and whether it’s filled with fluid or solid will determine whether additional tests and treatment options are needed.

Your health care provider may also schedule blood tests to check for other conditions.


Cysts usually resolve on their own without treatment within 8 to 12 weeks.

Birth control pills may be recommended to help reduce the risk of developing new cysts. 

Surgery is more likely to be recommended if cysts:

  • Won't dissolve on their own
  • Causing persistent symptoms
  • Continue to grow
  • Are larger than 10 centimeters

Surgeries for ovarian cysts include:

  • Exploratory laparotomy
  • Pelvic laparoscopy

Cysts caused by other conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, may require more treatment.

to top