What they are:
Ovaries make cysts for a living—each month your ovary “recruits” microscopic eggs to pick a candidate for ovulation. After the best-looking egg of the bunch is released, a small cyst is left behind (like a big pimple on your ovary). Normally, this cyst is absorbed by the ovary, but sometimes it seals over and fills with fluid or blood. Less commonly, an ovarian cyst is filled instead with mucus or fibrous tissue, and in some cases, hair and teeth.
What does it mean:
In most cases, nothing. Most cysts are considered “functional”—a sign that your ovary is working normally. If your gyno finds one on your exam, she may want you to have a follow-up visit, or an ultrasound, or both. Fluid-filled cysts will eventually be absorbed, but may linger for awhile, and may even get bigger before they get smaller. Sometimes, the cyst will rupture; this may happen randomly or during intercourse. While very painful, a ruptured cyst generally has no lasting consequences to your health or fertility.
How can you treat it:
Your gyno may decide that your cyst needs treatment: it looks suspicious for cancer on the ultrasound...it's rapidly growing...it's really large (6-10 cm in diameter)...it's twisting your ovary from its weight. If this is the case, surgery is the only option - there's no medication that can get rid of a cyst. Most of the time, the cyst can be removed laparoscopically. While you're under anesthesia, your gyno makes a tiny incision in your naval and places a skinny camera inside. Two or three other tiny incisions are made in your lower abdomen, and long skinny instruments are used to remove the cyst--in most cases, leaving your ovary behind.
How you can prevent them:
Using systemic hormonal birth control--pills, patches, rings--will reduce the amount of activity in your ovaries each months, and helps to prevent cysts from forming.