A functional ovarian cyst is a sac swelled up with fluid because the sac that is supposed to go away once the egg is released still remained. This sac forms on the surface of a woman’s ovary during or after ovulation which holds a maturing egg. Although these cysts are harmless, once they are too large, they can also cause harm.

There are two types of these cysts:

  • Follicular cyst occurs
  • Luteal cyst occurs

Functional ovarian cysts usually are harmless, do not cause symptoms, and go away without treatment.

The larger the ovarian cyst is, the more likely it is to cause symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may include:

  • Frequent urination, if a large cyst is pressing against your bladder.
  • Abdominal (belly) pain.
  • Menstrual period changes.
  • Weight gain.

More severe symptoms may develop if the cyst has twisted (torsion), is bleeding, or has ruptured. See your doctor immediately if you have any of the following pain, shock, or bleeding symptoms:

  • Sudden, severe abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sudden faintness, dizziness, and weakness
  • Vaginal bleeding or symptoms of shock from heavy bleeding (hemorrhage)

There are many other conditions that cause signs or symptoms of a functional ovarian cyst. This is why it’s important to have any unusual pelvic symptoms checked and to have regular annual pelvic exams.


Diagnosis can be achieved by the doctor through pelvic exam, history of symptoms and menstrual periods, family history, and a transvaginal ultrasound. A transvaginal or abdominal ultrasound can help show what kind of cyst it is.

When is further testing needed?

Get rechecked for cysts after 1 to 2 months or after 1 to 2 menstrual cycles since the cysts may be gone by this time even without treatment.

Your doctor will recommend further testing or treatment if:

  • Initial ultrasound doesn’t clearly show what kind of cyst or growth is present, or both ovaries are affected.
  • You are not ovulating during your initial examination (because you are either a postmenopausal woman or a girl not yet menstruating).
  • You have moderate to severe pain or vaginal bleeding.
  • A diagnosed functional ovarian cyst does not get smaller or go away as expected.
  • An ovarian growth or cyst (mass) is larger than 3 in. (7.6 cm).
  • You have risk factors for ovarian cancer.

Further testing

  • Biopsy through laparoscopy allows a surgeon to look at the ovary through a lighted viewing instrument and take a sample of the growth (biopsy).
  • CA-125 (cancer antigen) test is only recommended for women with a very high risk for ovarian cancer.



Treatment with medicine may be useful if you have recurrent, painful functional ovarian cysts.

Preventing ovulation through birth control pills (oral contraceptives). Ovarian cyst formation is decreased and relief of symptoms when you stop ovulation. Birth control pills have not been shown to get rid of or shrink ovarian cysts that have already formed.

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