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What is a functional ovarian cyst?

Functional ovarian cysts are sometimes called "follicular cysts." In a normal menstrual cycle, your ovary releases an egg into a tiny sac called a follicle, and when the egg is mature enough to be fertilized by sperm, the follicle breaks open and releases the egg into the fallopian tube. Follicular cysts or functional ovarian cysts form when the follicle doesn't break open to release the egg, but the fluid stays in the follicle and forms a cyst. Functional ovarian cysts typically do not cause symptoms and resolve on their own within one to three months.

If you have functional ovarian cysts, you should call your doctor if:

  •  You are experiencing pain, particularly severe, sudden pain.
  •  You have pain along with nausea and/or vomiting.
  •  You have bleeding that is not normal for you.
  •  For at least two weeks you have found yourself getting full easily, losing your appetite quickly and losing weight without trying.
  •  You feel the need to urinate more frequently.
  •  You have trouble emptying your bladder or bowel completely.
  •  You feel bloating, pressure or discomfort in your abdomen.
  •  You feel pain during intercourse.
  •  You feel a dull ache in your lower back and thighs.
Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing Specialist

Functional ovarian cysts are a fluid filled cyst on the ovary that often form when the egg forms but doesn’t release properly.

Some women are prone to these and are placed on birth control pills to suppress ovulation in hopes to prevent cyst formation.

Most of these resolve themselves within 2-3 months.

Some may not resolve and may require surgery.

Make sure to see your healthcare provider if you are having pain and think you may have a cyst and it is not resolving or the pain is severe.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.