An enlarged ovary is one that has become larger than normal. There are many different causes of enlarged ovaries and they have varying degrees of severity. A woman’s ovaries are part of her endocrinal and reproductive system. They are responsible for the release of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, which play a part in the menstrual cycle, development of female secondary sex characteristics, and even voice changes.
What causes an enlarged ovary?
Commonly, enlarged ovaries are due to cyst development. Cysts are usually non-cancerous and are sac-like in structure, typically containing fluid or other material. There are many other causes for an ovary to become enlarged, however. The following are the most commonly recognized ovary enlargement causes:
- Corpus luteum cyst: Occurs after the egg has been released from the follicle of the ovary, typically during the second half the menstrual cycle. Massive quantities of estrogen and progesterone are produced by corpus luteum, which the follicle now develops into. If a sperm has not fertilized the egg during this time, the corpus luteum will break down and dissolve. However, there are some cases where instead of breaking down, the corpus luteum fills with fluid or blood, expanding to become a cyst that makes the ovary become enlarged.
- Dermoid cyst: This type of cyst contains tissue or organ components and is often referred to as a kind of cystic teratoma. Contents of the cyst are things like mature skin, hair, sweat glands, bones, nails, teeth, eyes, and cartilage. Dermoid cysts tend to be present at birth and are not noticeable until much later in life.
- Follicle cyst: Considered the most common type of ovarian cyst and is characterized by the inability of the follicle rupture, releasing its egg to potentially become fertilized. Instead, it turns into a cyst.
- Polycystic ovarian disease (PCOS): A set of symptoms that are due to the elevation of androgen (male hormones) in the female body, causing a hormonal imbalance. It includes symptoms such as lack of menstruation or heavy periods, excess body or facial hair, acne, pelvic pain, and a patch of thick, dark, velvety skin. The reasons for its occurrence stem from a combination of environmental and genetic factors, though the exact reason for its cause not well understood
- Congenital abnormality: It is possible to be born with enlarged ovaries.
- Metastatic cancer: The most harmful form of cancer is metastatic, which means that it has the potential to spread from its site of origin to other organs. Cancers of the liver, lung, or peritoneum have a high chance of metastasizing to the ovaries.
- Nonmalignant tumor: Also known as benign tumors that tend to be self-contained and without the potential for metastasis. Benign tumors tend to grow slower than malignant tumors and if they develop in the ovary, it can cause it to become enlarged
- Ovarian cancer: Many different types of ovarian cancer exist that all have varying degrees of malignancy. Depending on the cancer type, it can be a possible cause of an enlarged ovary
- Ovarian torsion: A medical emergency characterized by the twisting of the ovary and fallopian tube. Women affected tend to have significantly lower abdominal pain caused by compromised blood supply. Ovarian torsion is considered life-threatening and can result in stromal edema, internal hemorrhage, hyperstimulation, or a mass.
Symptoms that accompany an enlarged ovary
Symptoms of an enlarged ovary may differ depending on the underlying cause, as some cases present with attritional symptoms not found in other causes of enlarged ovary. Symptoms of an enlarged ovary include:
- Abdominal, pelvic, or lower back pain
- Difficulty in urinating with urinary retention (Dysuria)
- Heavy bleeding during menstruation (Menorrhagia)
- Occasional missed menstrual periods
- Painful sexual intercourse (Dyspareunia)
- Urgency to urinate
- Vaginal bleeding that is abnormal
- Body aches – commonly thigh pain
- Breast pain
- Constipation and indigestion
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea with or without vomiting
- Unintentional weight gain
Treatment of an enlarged ovary
The treatment for an enlarged ovary will often depend on the underlying cause. This will require the guidance of a trained medical professional to perform various tests on procedures to help get a clear diagnosis. Ovarian cancer often utilizes a combination of surgery and chemotherapy for treatment. Radiation may also be used after surgery has been complete to eradicate any lingering traces of cancer cells.
Women with PCOS are commonly treated with medications such as birth control pills, hormone drugs, and metformin to help overcome their hormone imbalance. Other forms of benign cysts tend to resolve on their own without any additional treatment, but perhaps the use of anti-nausea drugs and over the counter pain medications.
There are also some home remedies that might prove useful as enlarged ovary treatment:
- Drink plenty of water: Helps to eliminate toxins and excess hormones that might contribute to disorders causing enlarged ovaries.
- Consume a healthy, balanced diet: Typically, this consists of eating fresh fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed foods and trans fats.
- Get regular exercise: Yoga and aerobic exercises are great for regulating the endocranial system in the body.
- Homeopathic drugs: This includes the use of Sepia and Pulsatilla, as they are considered a potent treatment for enlarged ovaries. However, it is advised to speak to your doctor first before starting any type of homeopathic medication.