An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms on or inside the ovary. The ovaries are part of the female reproductive system and located in the lower abdomen on both sides of the uterus. An ovarian cyst usually forms during the ovulation process of follicle development or recession.
It is very common during the reproductive years of females. The primary risk group for Ovarian Cysts lies in the early years of Menarche up until the late 20s. However, cysts can also form before puberty and post Menopause.
The cysts are usually harmless and most of the women with cystic masses are asymptomatic. In the majority of the cases, the ovarian cyst recedes away within a few weeks on its own. Surgeries may be required in cases when the ovarian cyst grows beyond 5 cm in diameter and leads to pathological symptoms.
An ovarian cyst is considered to be a Kapha Dosha imbalance in Ayurveda. It is named Granthi and can be managed with prescribed changes in diet, lifestyle, and herbal cleansing procedures.
Ovarian Cyst Categorisation
The cysts of the ovary have been categorized according to their origin and the effect they have on the overall health of the reproductive system.
- Functional Cysts form during the regular menstrual cycle. They are usually benign and are most commonly observed. They are termed functional as they affect both the functioning and overall health of the ovaries.
- Non-Functional cysts have no purpose or do not play any role in the functionality of the ovaries. Most of the times they carry pathological symptoms and affect the overall health of the reproductive system and the menstrual cycle.
During the ovulation process, the ovum grows inside a tiny sac called a follicle. In every cycle, multiple follicles start to develop, however, only one follicle usually matures and releases the egg on completion of the cycle. Most of the time, immature follicles recede away within a few days.
Follicular cysts form when the immature follicle doesn’t recede away or when the mature follicle doesn’t break open to release the egg. Instead, it keeps growing and turns into a large sac, full of fluid. These cysts often have no symptoms and recede away in four to twelve weeks.
Corpus Luteum cysts
Corpus Luteum is integral to female hormonal balance as it releases required Estrogen and Progesterone hormones. It forms from a ruptured mature follicle, which shrinks down after the release of the egg.
Corpus luteum cysts form if the ruptured follicle doesn’t shrink down but reseals and grows to form a fluid-filled sac. Usually, such cysts recede after a few weeks.
However, in some cases, they may grow abnormally, as large as 15 cm and or pose pathological symptoms of bleeding, twisting or turning of the ovaries, menstrual irregularities, and severe abdominal pain.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – PCOS
PCOS is a condition credited to hormonal imbalance. In PCOS, multiple follicles may tend to develop, however, none matures resulting in anovulation or sometimes irregular or delayed periods.
These immature follicles stay in the fluid-filled state, leading to a rough surface and appearance of the ovaries. Such ovaries with multiple cysts are termed as polycystic ovaries and the condition as PCOS.
PCOS usually can easily be managed by bringing changes in diet, lifestyle, and most often by just losing excess weight.
- Hemorrhagic Cysts – Cysts that cause bleeding into a follicular cyst or corpus luteum
- Endometrioma Cysts – Forms when endometrial tissues grow inside the ovaries
- Para Ovarian Cysts – A fluid-filled sac that forms outside the ovaries in the space around the ovaries or fallopian tubes
- Dermoid Cysts – These are usually made up of hair, muscle, or bone tissues
Causes of Ovarian Cyst
- Hormonal Imbalances – Hormonal imbalances, hormone-based birth control pills, or hormonal therapies may induce irregular ovulation, leading to functional cysts.
- Endometriosis – In this case, the endometrial tissues attach to the ovaries, forming cysts called an endometrioma. These cysts can be painful during intercourse and during menstruation.
- Pregnancy – An ovarian cyst normally develops in early pregnancy to help support the pregnancy until the placenta forms. Sometimes, the cyst stays on the ovary until later in the pregnancy and may need to be removed.
- Pelvic infections – Pelvic Infections originating in the vaginal canal can spread to the ovaries and fallopian tubes, leading to the formation of cysts.
Symptoms of Ovarian Cyst
Most ovarian cysts are small and don’t cause symptoms. If a cyst does cause symptoms, you may have:
- Pressure on the pelvic region leading to urge to urinate and uneasiness
- Bloating, Constipation, and Irregular Bowel Movement
- Inflammation and tenderness of the lower abdomen region
- Pain in the lower abdomen on the side of the cyst. This pain may be sharp or dull and may come and go
- Sharp pain in the pelvic region with nausea and vomiting
- Leukorrhea – White Discharge
- Irregular and frequent Periods with a shortened window of 8-10 days between consecutive cycles
- Weight gain
- Complications could lead to Anemia, Extreme Fatigue and Weakness, Inability to pursue a normal life
- Early Menarche and Precocious puberty
- Symptoms related to Dysmenorrhea – severe menstrual cramps
Tests and Diagnosis
Ovarian cysts can be felt during a pelvic exam, with a special focus on inflammation and tenderness of the lower abdominal region. Specific confirmatory tests include:
- Pelvic Sonography – Location and size of the cysts can be confirmed by an ultrasound of the pelvic region
- Hormone level tests to see whether there are hormone-related problems.
- Blood tests for postmenopausal women to detect and measure the amount of cancer-antigen 125 (CA-125) in blood. High values of CA-125 post-menopause indicate ovarian cancer. In premenopausal women, many other illnesses or diseases besides cancer can cause higher levels of CA-125.
Ayurvedic Management of Ovarian Cyst
Ayurvedic management of Ovarian Cysts involves the adaptions of diet, lifestyle, and involves herbal cleansing and rejuvenation therapies. Cysts of the ovaries are caused due to Kapha Dosha aggravation, which promotes abnormal growth. In Ayurveda, it is termed as Granthi, which translates to tissue mass.
For non-functional cysts such as Hemorrhagic Cysts, Endometrioma Cysts, and Dermoid Cysts, more than one Dosha is vitiated along with imbalances in the bodily tissues such as Bone Tissues, Reproductive tissues, Plasma, and Blood Tissues. In such cases, both lifestyle and herbal therapies are required.
It has been observed in many cases that Ayurvedic treatment can successfully lead to a recession of non-functional and complex ovarian cyst without the requirement of surgery.
Ayurvedic management helps to remove peripheral symptoms that accompany the disorder as the focus is to remove the cause of health issues and not just to address the symptoms.
Ayurvedic treatment of ovarian cysts includes non-invasive procedures that strengthen the body systems, help flush out toxins, and removal of causes to prevent recurrence at a later stage.
Ayurvedic herbal formulations to treat Ovarian Cyst
- Kanchnar Guggulu – A primary female reproductive system tonic, Kachnar Guggulu is a herbal formulation that is also prescribed for Hypothyroidism as it can arrest hormonal imbalances and bring the functionality of body organs back on track. It posses anti-cancerous, and anti-tumor properties nourishes the body tissues and flushes the toxins out of the tissues and organs.
- Ashokarishta – It is a fermented uterotonic that normalizes the function of the ovaries and of the female reproductive system.
- Dashmool Kasaya – A blend of 10 herbs that all possess rejuvenating, detoxifying, and reproductive system strengthening properties. It pacifies all the three Dosha and nourishes the body tissues, specifically of the female reproductive system.
Diet and Lifestyle – Ahara and Vihara
- Daily Abhyanga, gentle self-massage of the lower abdomen with Coconut Oil and or Sesame Oil.
- Light, Soft, and easy to digest meals and foods such as kichari (rice and lentils mix with veggies), soups, porridges, and or stews.
- Avoid meats, processed foods, dairy, fried and spicy foods.
- Take meals on a timely basis, only when hunger is observed.
- Regular and timely sleep hours to manage Vata Dosha.
- Light and regular physical activity such as walks, hiking, swimming, bicycling should be practiced.
- Avoid salt, sour, oily, and sugar foods.
- Do not suppress the urge to urinate and defecate as it aggravates all Dosha and disturbs the body tissues, primarily that of the urogenital system.
- Avoid Smoking and Alcohol.
- Avoid bakery foods, bread, and white flour baked/fermented foods.