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2023-08-23 23:23:36

Are Ovarian Cysts Genetic?

Being a woman can be hard — made harder by pesky and sometimes incredibly painful ovarian cysts. Where do ovarian cysts come from? Why do women experience them? In this article, we'll discuss if there are genetic factors related to the growth of ovarian cysts, why they happen, and what you can do about them.

What are Ovarian Cysts?

Let's back up even more. What is a cyst, in general?

A cyst, put simply, is a fluid-filled sac. Cysts can form pretty much anywhere on your body — like on the surface of your skin and on/in your organs. Think of them like blisters.

In the case of functional ovarian cysts, they can form on or in the ovaries.

woman holding stomach with pain from ovarian cysts

There are Multiple Types of Ovarian Cysts

"Ovarian cyst" is more of an umbrella term. Under this heading, there are also:

Most Women Experience Cysts on Their Ovaries!

Yes, these cysts are quite normal. In fact, some sources say that every woman gets ovarian cysts. However, the majority of the time, most ovarian cysts come and go without causing any issues.

Are Ovarian Cysts Dangerous?

Fortunately, most functional ovarian cysts are benign. This means that they're generally harmless and, importantly, not cancerous.

To repeat: Ovarian cysts do not equal ovarian cancer! Ovarian cancer has its own causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

What Causes Ovarian Cysts?

Frustratingly, healthcare providers and researchers haven't yet identified any solid explanations for ovarian cysts. We do know that these fluid-filled sacs are most common during the childbearing years and typically slow down during menopause.

Abnormal cell growth can also be a contributing factor to ovarian cysts.

Ovarian cysts can also be more likely to develop due to nutrition. For instance, if you consume a lot of processed foods, sugar, soy, gluten, or caffeine, this may increase your likelihood of developing ovarian cysts. (However, more research is needed.)

tray of desserts

If you have a family history of ovarian cysts, does that play a role? Well, possibly. Based on what we know thus far, it's more accurate to say that certain health conditions that can cause ovarian cysts might be hereditary — like endometriosis.

But we can't yet say that ovarian cysts on their own are genetic, or that you can have a genetic predisposition to them. Rather, consider if you have a family history of cyst-causing conditions.

Can Benign Ovarian Cysts Lead to Infertility?

In and of themselves, ovarian cysts don't typically cause infertility. However, certain medical conditions that cause cysts — like endometriosis — can lead to infertility.

Remember, cysts are a result of something else happening in the body.

How Can You Tell if You Have an Ovarian Cyst?

As we said earlier, you might have an ovarian cyst right now and not even notice it, since most ovarian cysts simply don't cause complications.

However, if a benign cyst gets too large, you might experience the following symptoms.

Are Ovarian Cysts the Same as Uterine Fibroids?

No, these are two different things! Fibroids are noncancerous growths that develop in the uterus. They don't really "go away" but rather shrink (or grow) in size. A cyst can go away on its own and very often will.

Fibroids may not cause any symptoms and therefore often require no treatment.

How are Ovarian Cysts Diagnosed?

The symptoms we mentioned a moment ago can be signs of an ovarian cyst... and about a million other things. So, how can you know what you're dealing with?

Your healthcare provider might be able to determine if you have cysts with a pelvic exam. However, the only conclusive way to diagnose a cyst is via an ultrasound — more specifically, a transvaginal ultrasound.

ultrasound technician

This type of imaging test allows the ultrasound technician to take detailed pictures of your ovaries, uterus, and the surrounding areas of your lower abdomen to look for any ovarian cysts.

Women's Health Panels

Certain blood tests can help determine your ovarian health, as well. eNational's Standard Women's Health Panel looks at your ovaries, any fertility issues, progesterone levels, and menopause detection.

The Complete Women's Health Panel provides additional insight into adrenal health, thyroid health, bone and heart health, and more.

Both tests require a simple blood draw, and results are delivered to you in three to six business days.

What Does Treating Ovarian Cysts Look Like?

If your cysts aren't causing any major issues, then more than likely, no action is needed.

However, if a cyst is causing you severe pain and other symptoms that are difficult to manage, your healthcare provider should suggest next steps.

If you're dealing with large cysts, they could require surgical removal. Surgical removal needs to be done before the cyst has a chance to rupture. During surgery, small incisions are made in the abdomen, and the ovarian cyst can be removed via laparoscopy, which is less invasive.

In rare cases, ruptured ovarian cysts may cause a lot of bleeding, which can take away some of the blood supply to the organs. And in very rare cases, this can lead to death. This is why surgery to remove a cyst sometimes becomes necessary.

That doesn't mean that if your ovarian cyst has already ruptured, you're in serious trouble. However, you should talk to your healthcare provider immediately if you're experiencing the following symptoms:

They will likely perform an ultrasound. If the ovarian cyst that ruptured was smaller in size, surgery might not be necessary.

Are There Ways to Prevent New Ovarian Cysts from Forming?

Unfortunately, science hasn't yet uncovered many ways to prevent ovarian cysts. Taking birth control pills (the hormonal kind) could reduce the likelihood of new cysts forming on your ovaries. However, be sure to educate yourself on the potential risks and side effects of taking hormonal birth control pills!

pack of hormonal birth control pills

As we mentioned earlier, changes in your diet could also work in your favor — and not just for preventing ovarian cysts!

If you discover that you're prone to large functional cysts that are causing you pain, your provider might want to monitor you over time.

This could mean getting ultrasounds every six months to one year. This allows your provider to monitor the size of your cysts (and the formation of a new ovarian cyst) along with the general health of your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the surrounding area.

Be Proactive About Your Reproductive Health!

If you don't notice your ovarian cysts, then you're probably in a good place.

If, on the other hand, ovarian cysts are causing you severe pain, take action before they get worse. Visit your provider to ask about an ultrasound, the possibility of hormonal birth control, potential lifestyle changes, and specific risk factors you might be experiencing. They will help get you diagnosed and talk about a potential treatment plan.

For comprehensive bloodwork, order a test with eNational. We have more than 2,000 locations around the United States. You can order a test online in just a few clicks, and you don't even need to see your doctor first.

Ordering is quick, convenient, and easy. Find a testing center near you!