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What Size of Ovarian Cyst is Dangerous

What Size of Ovarian Cyst is Dangerous?

Have you ever experienced a dull ache in your lower abdomen and become concerned if it is something serious?

One possible cause for this pain can be an ovarian cyst. Ovarian cysts are common and often harmless, but understanding when they become a concern is essential for maintaining your health.

Let’s explore everything you need to know about ovarian cysts, including their types, causes, and symptoms, along with answering the query “What size of ovarian cyst is dangerous?”

What is an Ovarian Cyst?

An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms on or inside an ovary. Ovaries are part of the female reproductive system and are responsible for producing eggs and hormones like estrogen and progesterone.

While most ovarian cysts are benign (non-cancerous) and resolve on their own, some can cause complications, including pain, bleeding, or even fertility issues.

Types of Ovarian Cyst


Ovarian cysts come in various types, each with different characteristics:

1 – Functional Cysts:

  • Follicular Cysts: These are formed when the follicle (a sac that holds an egg) doesn’t rupture to release the egg and instead swells with fluid.
  • Corpus Luteum Cysts: This type is developed after the follicle releases the egg and reseals, filling it with fluid.

2 – Dermoid Cysts:

It contains tissues such as hair, skin, or teeth because they form from embryonic cells.

3 – Endometriomas:

These occur when endometrial tissue (which normally lines the uterus) grows on the ovaries.

4 – Cystadenomas:

It is developed from cells on the outer surface of the ovary and may contain a watery or mucous substance.

5 – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS):

This involves multiple small cysts resulting from hormonal imbalances, affecting ovarian function.

What Size of Ovarian Cyst is Dangerous?

The size of an ovarian cyst can be an indicator of potential danger. While normal ovarian cyst size i.e. less than 5 cm, is generally benign and asymptomatic; larger cysts i.e. over 5 cm, can pose risks.

Moreover, cysts larger than 10 cm are particularly concerning and may even require surgical intervention.

Large cysts can cause:

  • Ovarian Torsion: Twisted ovary, cutting off its blood supply and causing severe pain.

  • Rupture: This leads to internal bleeding and severe pain.

  • Compression of Surrounding Organs: Causing urinary and bowel issues.

What Causes Cysts on Ovaries?

Ovarian cysts can develop for various reasons:

  • Hormonal Imbalances: Can affect ovulation and lead to functional cysts.

  • Endometriosis: Causes endometriomas.

  • Pregnancy: Corpus luteum cysts often develop early in pregnancy.

  • Severe Pelvic Infections: Can spread to the ovaries and lead to cyst formation.

  • Genetic Factors: Influence the likelihood of conditions like PCOS.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cyst

Many ovarian cysts are asymptomatic, but larger or problematic cysts can cause:

  • Pelvic Pain: A dull or sharp pain in the lower abdomen.

  • Bloating and Fullness: Feeling of heaviness in the abdomen.

  • Pain During Intercourse: Discomfort during or after sex.

  • Menstrual Irregularities: Abnormal bleeding or spotting.

  • Frequent Urination: If a cyst presses on the bladder.

How Fast Do Ovarian Cysts Grow?

The growth rate of ovarian cysts varies. Functional cysts typically grow slowly and may resolve on their own within a few menstrual cycles. However, cysts related to conditions like endometriosis or dermoid cysts may grow more steadily and require medical intervention.

How to Treat Ovarian Cysts?

Treatment options for ovarian cysts depend on their type, size, and symptoms:

– Watchful Waiting:
Monitoring small, asymptomatic cysts with regular ultrasounds.

– Medications:
Hormonal contraceptives can prevent the formation of new cysts.

– Surgery:
Surgeries are necessary for large, persistent, or symptomatic cysts. Ovarian cyst size for surgery is determined to be over 10cm. The surgical options include:

  • Laparoscopy: Minimally invasive surgery to remove the cyst.
  • Laparotomy: A more extensive procedure for larger cysts.

Who is at Risk of Developing Ovarian Cysts?

Several factors can increase the risk of developing ovarian cysts:

  • Hormonal Imbalances: Especially related to menstrual cycles.

  • Pregnancy: Particularly in the first trimester.

  • Endometriosis: Causes tissue to grow outside the uterus, including on the ovaries.

  • Severe Pelvic Infections: Can spread to the ovaries.

  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Characterized by multiple cysts due to hormonal imbalances.

When To See a Doctor?

It is necessary to seek professional medical help if you experience:

  • Severe or Sharp Pelvic Pain: Especially if sudden.
  • Fever or Vomiting: Accompanying abdominal pain.
  • Faintness or Dizziness: Could indicate internal bleeding.
  • Rapid Breathing: Or difficulty breathing.
  • Unexplained Weight Loss: Or a noticeable abdominal swelling.

Frequently Asked Questions

At what size should an ovarian cyst be removed?

Ovarian cysts larger than 5 cm often require evaluation for potential removal, especially if they’re symptomatic. Cysts that are over 10 cm are the ones that require surgical intervention.

What size ovarian cyst is an emergency?

An ovarian cyst larger than 5 cm that causes severe pain, torsion, or rupture is considered an emergency and requires immediate medical attention.

When should I start worrying about an ovarian cyst?

You should be concerned if you experience severe pelvic pain, rapid abdominal swelling, unexplained weight loss, fever, or symptoms of ovarian torsion, such as sudden, intense pain and vomiting.

– Disclaimer –

This blog is for informational & educational purposes only and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health-related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 06/12/2024

Learn more about our editorial process.

  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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