What is a Complex Ovarian Cyst?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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Most types of ovarian cysts are harmless, but complex ovarian cysts actually pose a danger to women who develop them. This kind of cyst can cause discomfort, irregular bleeding, and symptoms of pregnancy, such as nausea and breast tenderness. The typical complex ovarian cyst is made up of both solid and liquid material, and most require surgery or medication to be controlled. The three main types are dermoid, cystadenomas, and endometrioma.

A regular cyst, which is also called a functional cyst, often develops during the menstrual cycle and has few, if any, symptoms. Typically, the worst type of outcome with a functional cyst is that it will grow and eventually twist the ovary, causing pain in the abdomen. On the other hand, the worst outcome possible for a complex ovarian cyst is death, though most just cause pain and uncomfortable symptoms that include nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness, irregular bleeding, and extreme pelvic pain. In fact, some women experience the same symptoms that often appear in ectopic pregnancy or endometriosis, both of which are known for being quite painful. It is important to get complex ovarian cysts checked by a doctor right away to make sure they are not cancerous.


One of the three main types of complex cysts is a dermoid cyst, which grows from the same cells as a human egg. Thus, this kind of complex ovarian cyst often has human cells, such as hair, skin, or even teeth, and though it is not usually cancerous, it is typically painful. Another type of complex ovarian cyst is endometrioma, which occurs in those with endometriosis. It is typically found outside of the uterus, and sometimes causes issues involving the ovaries, making fast treatment crucial. A cystadenoma contains both liquid and mucus, and can twist around easily, which means that it can become quite painful.

Typically, a pelvic examination is necessary to diagnose a complex ovarian cyst. In fact, a pelvic ultrasound, blood test, and pregnancy test are all frequently used to diagnose this kind of ovarian mass and make sure that cancer or an ectopic pregnancy are not present. In many cases, surgery is the best treatment option, especially if the cyst appears to be large or growing. It can be performed through laparoscopy, which involves making several tiny incisions and then removing any cysts that are found. Pain medication can also be given to control the discomfort that usually comes along with a complex ovarian cyst.


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Post 3

@indigomoth - I wonder if the correlation with infertility might be because women with polycystic ovarian syndrome are more likely to develop these kinds of cysts? People who suffer from PCOS are already going to be more infertile than women without it.

The cysts described in the syndrome aren't complex ones, they are functional ones that don't "burst" and release the egg the way they are supposed to in a normal cycle.

But since they hang around, it's more likely that they can become dangerous.

I don't know if they can suddenly become complex cysts though, particularly the ones mentioned here that can have different kinds of tissue in them. The human body is a weird thing.

Post 2

@croydon - You are lucky that it wasn't too bad. I had a friend a few years ago who had a very large cyst on her ovaries and they did have to operate to get rid of it.

She told me that she was really worried about the ovarian cyst removal because she thought it might make it more difficult for her to conceive and she really wanted to have children one day.

But, she recently had a lovely baby boy, so I guess infertility might not affect everyone.

Post 1

I've had a relatively small ovarian cyst (not functional I mean, but I don't know if it was complex) and they can be quite painful. I was sure that I had a hernia or maybe appendicitis or something like that.

When I went to the doctor she did the standard examination, which involves pressing down on the stomach to feel around and see if there is a lump or whatever, and unfortunately, she managed to burst the cyst. Luckily it didn't bleed for very long, so it wasn't a big deal but she told me that sometimes people need to go to the hospital to stop the internal bleeding.

In a way, I'm glad it happened because I know exactly where the pain will be if it ever happens again, even if I don't know any other ovarian cyst symptoms. It's just above the juncture of your thigh with your torso.

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