What are ovarian cysts? Ovarian cysts are bubble-like growths in the ovaries —the part of the body that produces and releases eggs. These cysts can be filled with fluid, blood, or other material. Most ovarian cysts are common and harmless. Many go away on their own or get smaller within two or three menstrual cycles. Sometimes, if they're large, they may disrupt normal cycles, delaying bleeding and causing heavier bleeding than normal. But other ovarian cysts are more serious and need attention Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), for instance, an endocrine disorder, causes the ovaries to function in unpredictable ways. With PCOS, "follicle cysts" form in the ovaries, and inhibit the release of eggs. When women with PCOS menstruate, they may experience heavy bleeding since the endometrium is often thickened. Women with PCOS often have an elevated testosterone level, which is indicated by increased hair growth on the face and chest. . Most ovarian cysts won't produce symptoms unless they become ruptured or twisted —then you'll feel intense abdominal pain and nausea. Another symptom or sign to watch for is an irregular menstrual cycle. If you're irregular, it might be worth an exam to discover why. How do you get ovarian cysts? Often young and obese women suffer from PCOS. Otherwise, there isn't really conclusive evidence on how and why women get cysts. But there is some indication that a high fat diet and large amounts of caffeine contribute to their development and/or growth. How do you treat ovarian cysts? Any cyst should be checked by a doctor. Even though most ovarian cysts aren't usually cancerous, you shouldn't take the chance. Pelvic exams help doctors see if you have cysts at all. If, after an exam, your doctor suspects cysts, he/she may recommend other tests such as: Ultrasound —where sound waves are used (externally) to obtain a picture of your reproductive organs and the cysts can be identified and measured Laparoscopy —where a lighted tube is inserted into your body so the doctor can see inside Blood test There are several ways to treat ovarian cysts: Birth control pills help regulate ovulation and help shrink cysts Surgery may be required for large cysts. The type of operation depends on when the cyst is found, its size, type and a woman's age Hormone therapy can help with PCOS Dietary changes (like a low fat diet, and little to no caffeine) sometimes help cysts shrink Exercise How can you avoid ovarian cysts? There's been some evidence that foods high in saturated fat (like fried foods, cheeses, and fatty meats) contribute to the development of cysts. Avoiding these foods has been very helpful for some women. Also, caffeine is a stimulant and some doctors believe it stimulates the growth of ovarian cysts. Cutting down on coffee and colas may help. Finally, oral contraceptives will prevent the more common functional cysts of ovulation from forming. Learn about ovarian cysts and get tips for what to ask your gynecologist at BeingGirl.com.