The Difference Between Ovarian Cysts & Polycystic Ovaries

Updated: Dec 3, 2020


Yes, there are multiple types of cysts that can form on the ovaries.

Yes, any type can have an affect on female hormonal imbalance, ovulation, mood and weight and a myriad of other symptoms.

And yes, in most situations, all can be treated.


Identifying the type of cysts present will aid in all treatment options, especially natural remedies to address female hormone imbalance.


There are several types of cysts with some of the most common being...

*Functional cysts: consisting of Follicular Cysts (benign cysts on or in the ovary) and Luteal Cysts (forms once an egg has been released by the ovary, a very common occurrence in menstruating women)

*Abnormal cysts which are due to irregular cell growth such as Cystadenoma (often benign growths that develop on the surface of the ovary) or Endometrial (Endometrial cells begin to grow on the ovaries, causing a cyst. More likely if diagnosed with Endometriosis)


What are the symptoms?

*Irregular periods: this can mean heavier or lighter flow than normal, change in cycle length

*Pain that is dull or achy, cramps, or a short sharp pain to either the left of right side of your abdomen (where you imagine your ovaries to be)

*Bleeding throughout the month

*Swelling around the belly and bloating around period

*Pain during sex


As with your cycle, every woman is different, and only you know when something is not quite right. If anything unusual happens it's always best to seek advice.


How are cysts diagnosed?

*Pelvic examination

*Ultrasound

*Laparoscopy



So what are Polycystic Ovaries?

Type 1: Straight up Polycystic Ovaries

Type 2: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (aka PCOS)


Polycystsic ovaries are different to ovarian cysts, in that the ovaries are covered with small follicles in which the egg develops, rather than cysts filled with fluid.


What are the symptoms?

Type 1: This simply means your ovaries have many cysts on it. Quite common and often harmless unless you experience pain, cramping or an altered cycle. In which case it can affect your fertility!


Type 2: PCOS - is a metabolic disorder (syndrome) and can cause the following symptoms:

* Irregular, heavy periods or no periods at all

* Difficulty getting pregnant (because of irregular or failure to ovulate)

* Excessive hair growth – usually on the face, chest or back

* Weight gain - especially around the middle

* Female thinning hair or hair loss

* Oily skin or hormonal acne


PCOS is very common, around 1 in 10 women in the UK suffer from PCOS.



What causes PCOS?

Each cycle, follicles will develop on your ovaries. Within the follicles, eggs develop and when one matures faster than the others, it will be released into the fallopian tube and this is called ovulation.


The remaining follicles should degenerate. When they don't, they form grape like bunches of follicles on the ovaries and become 'polycystic'.


Problems arise when these cysts become hormonal and lead to the symptoms mentioned above. With the most extreme form of PCOS you will have problems with fertility and often recurrent miscarriages.


How do you know if you have PCOS?

There is not one single PCOS check or test. It will involve your GP requesting an ultrasound to check for cysts as well as a blood test to measure your hormone levels, in particular Follicle Stimulating Hormone, Luteinizing Hormone, Testosterone and Progesterone.


What are the common treatments for any type of ovarian cyst?

*The contraceptive pill

*Aspiration (the fluid in the cyst is suctioned out)

*Surgical removal


For women who are already on the pill (and it hasn't helped), are discussing family planning / trying to conceive or want a more natural route that realigns the hormonal imbalance in menstrual cycle, these treatments are not appealing.




Through the use of best practice nutrition for PCOS, I can talk to you more about your symptoms and treatment for PCOS naturally. Reach out to me here or book your free 20 minute initial consultation



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Kelly Mulhall

Registered Nutritional Therapist

Dip CNM, mBANT, mANP, mCNHC











Kelly is a Registered Nutritional Therapist who focuses on positive physical and mental wellbeing, achieved through diet, lifestyle, sleep and exercise. Having struggled for years with IBS and hormonal imbalance, and increasingly frustrated with the lack of support and helpful advice from her GP, Kelly began her own journey of healing the body from the inside out. After seeing huge improvements she quit her job to study nutrition and focus on harnessing the healing powers of food to help other people in similar situations.


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