These can be infection, cysts, lumps or cancer of the ovaries.
What to look for
- feeling of fullness or pressure on one side of the abdomen.
- abdominal pain during intercourse.
- sharp abdominal pain.
- irregular vaginal bleeding or absent menstrual periods.
- increase in facial or body hair.
- irregularities in bowel movements or urination.
Many small benign ovarian cysts and tumours produce no symptoms.
About the size of a walnut the ovaries rest in the curve of your fallopian tubes, attached to each side of the uterus. Each ovary contains thousands of eggs. In most women, once a month one or more eggs ripens and begins to grow in a small cyst like structure known as a follicle. When the egg is mature, it is released (ovulation) and goes down to the uterus.
The ovaries also produce the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. While the egg is maturing, the follicle releases oestrogen to help thicken the lining of the uterus in case the egg is fertilised and grows into an embryo. Progesterone is also released. If no pregnancy occurs, the level of progesterone decreases, menstruation occurs, and the cycle repeats itself.
There are problems can develop in the ovary. It can become infected, sometimes alone but more often as part of an infection that involves other pelvic organs (see the entry called pelvic inflammatory disease). Cysts and tumours can also form on the ovaries. Most often these are benign, or non-cancerous, and produce no symptoms.
Most benign ovarian cysts and tumours disappear after a few menstrual cycles, some are quite large and can be uncomfortable. Sometimes the growths disrupt the production of ovarian hormones, causing irregular bleeding or an increase in body hair, or they press on the bladder, leading to more frequent urination. Some rupture and can cause infection.
Ovarian infections are most frequently caused by sexually transmitted diseases. Some ovarian cysts are the result of a follicle that continues to grow and fill with fluid long after the egg has been released. They quite often will disappear of their own accord. They may cause extensive pain if they rupture or become twisted and their blood supply is cut off.
Your doctor will give you a complete physical and pelvic exam to determine if you have a problem in the ovaries.
Always seek the opinion of your doctor with regards to problems with your ovaries as growths can possibly be cancerous. Treatment for an ovarian problem depends on the problem. Treating ovarian cysts is often unnecessary as they normally disappear on their own.
Always see your doctor first and have a pelvic examination to ensure you do not have any malignant growths which are causing you problems. Alternative treatments for ovary problems should be used only as supplements to conventional treatment methods.
Herbal Therapies – Herbalists recommend Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) as a good all round tonic for the female reproductive organs. Herbalists recommend Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) as a good all round tonic for the female reproductive organs.
A vegetarian diet is recommended by most naturopaths to help prevent and treat ovarian cysts, especially carrots, dark-green leafy vegetables, and lemons.
When to seek further professional advice
- you experience sudden sharp or severe abdominal pain.
- you notice any significant increase in facial or body hair
- your menstrual periods become irregular or stop altogether