What are they?
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs or pockets in an ovary or on its surface. The formation of ovarian cysts is a very common condition. In some cases it can be associated with hormonal imbalance diseases; in other cases the cause is not pathological and they disappear without any specific treatment.
In most cases they are benign, they can sometimes be malignant, especially in women over 50.
There are two types of cysts, functional and pathological.
The functional cysts are typical of the woman of childbearing age and they are associated with the menstrual cycle. In some cases it may happen that during ovulation, the follicles are unable to burst or release the liquid they contain, thus transforming into functional cysts. Functional cysts are almost always asymptomatic and tend to disappear after a few months without specific treatments.
Pathological cysts originate from cells linked to the ovaries on the external surface. They can appear both in the fertile woman and in menopause.
They are almost always asymptomatic and can be diagnosed during a gynecological examination. Sometimes they can be large enough to block the blood flow to the ovaries and therefore must be surgically removed.
There are several types of pathological cysts:
- Cystadenomas develop from the external surface of the ovaries and are sometimes large enough to press on the intestine and block digestion or cause difficulty to urinate.
- Dermoid cysts develop from cells that produce eggs and may contain tissue such as hair, skin, or teeth, often involving dysmenorrhea and hypermenorrhea. In the some cases, they must be surgically removed.
- Endometrioma cysts that develop from endometriosis, a disorder in which uterine cells grow outside the uterus, leading to the formation of cysts.
- Polycystic ovary cysts are a consequence of Polycystic ovary syndrome, a disorder involving infrequent, irregular or prolonged menstrual periods.
There are several predisposing factors for the formation of ovarian cysts:
- Use of fertility drugs;
- Pregnancy, especially the third trimester, where the chorionic gonadotropin hormone reaches its maximum concentration in the blood;
- Cigarette smoke;
- Obesity and a diet high in saturated fat;
- Tubal ligation.
Symptoms of ovarian cysts are different:
- Bleeding between periods;
- Irregular menstrual cycle;
- Pain during sexual intercourses;
- Sense of heaviness, swelling and abdominal pain;
- Increased frequency of urination and inability to empty the bladder
- Weight gain
The most serious symptom that can occur in the presence of ovarian cysts is rupture. If the cyst is large, intense bleeding may occur in the abdominal cavity, associated with chronic pain in the lower abdomen. In the following case it is mandatory to go to the hospital.
Rarely, ovarian cysts can cause infertility, especially if we are talking about functional cysts, dermoid cysts and cystadenomas.
The cysts that can lead to fertility problems are those associated with endometriosis and the polystic ovary.
The diagnosis of cysts can be made by ultrasound examination, resonance, CT scan. Ultrasound is the fastest and cheapest examination in diagnosing the presence of ovarian cysts, but at the same time it is also a very accurate examination, as it allows us to evaluate their shape, size, location and type of content.
In the event that the benign or malignant nature of ovarian cysts is to be verified, tumor markers can be analyzed, i.e. a protein, known as CA 125, is measured in the blood, a tumor antigen, expressed on the surface of ovarian cancer cells.
In cases where surgical removal is required, due to large dimensions, it is possible to perform a laparoscopy, i.e. the insertion, at abdominal level, of a tube, equipped with a light source at the end, with which the doctor can remove the cyst.
In case of severe and persistent abdominal pain it is possible to prescribe painkillers, or very often contraceptive pills are prescribed, in order to reduce the risk of developing other cysts, during subsequent menstrual cycles. However, it should be emphasized that the use of oral contraceptives also serves to reduce the risk of tumor cysts forming.
A correct diet for the prevention of ovarian cysts should follow the some recommendations listed below:
- Prefer a savory breakfast.
- Milk, derivatives and fatty cheeses are insulinogenic foods and increase the concentration of the LH hormone in the blood, so they should be avoided.
- Excessive consumption of caffeine keeps estradiol levels low, considered the hormone par excellence of fertility in women.
- A gluten-free diet helps prevent hormone imbalances.
- A consumption of foods with a low glycemic load, foods with anti-inflammatory action, healthy fats, noble proteins and foods rich in folic acid improves ovarian function.
- Further changes to the diet can be better implemented if discussed with a specialist. Hormonal imbalances related to fertility are thought to be linked to pathological conditions, but sometimes hormonal imbalance can be treated by simply improving the quality of the diet.