Know The Difference Between Ovarian Cysts And PCOS

Among the numerous issues related to the menstrual cycle, PCOS is the most prevalent one. Studies show that among the population of menstruating women in India, about 22.5% of them suffer from PCOS. Also, about 16% of women aged between 20 to 29 suffer from this menstrual disorder. Also called polycystic ovarian syndrome, PCOS is characterized by polycystic ovary cysts. However, ovarian cysts are not always a result of PCOS. 

Females can have one or multiple ovarian cysts without having PCOS. Statistics show that about 7% of the global female population develop ovarian cysts at some point in their life. And unlike PCOS cysts, these cysts are not always symptomatic. 

Ovarian cysts and PCOS are often confused with being the same. But they may or may not be associated with each other. 

Table Of Contents 

1. Difference Between Ovarian Cysts And PCOS

2. Symptoms Of Ovarian Cysts

3. Treatment Of Ovarian Cysts

4. Symptoms Of PCOS

5. Treatment Of PCOS

6. Takeaway

Difference Between Ovarian Cysts And PCOS 

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop on the ovaries and enlarge them. Any female can have one or more of these cysts without experiencing an irregular menstrual cycle or any other symptom. Many ovarian cysts are even functional, meaning they grow just like a normal follicle during the menstrual cycle, but do not rupture to release eggs. Instead, they go away on their own over time. However, some ovarian cysts burst or need to be removed surgically to prevent any complications. 

On the other hand, PCOS is the result of hormonal imbalance in the body of females of reproductive age. It is caused when the male reproductive hormone levels and androgen become unusually high. High androgen levels interfere with the proper functioning of the ovaries and disrupt the normal production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which play a vital role in maintaining a regular menstrual cycle. This imbalance leads to irregular or non-existent periods in females. Multiple ovarian cysts also characterize PCOS. However, the PCOS cysts size is usually smaller than the normal ovarian cysts. 

Another important distinction between ovarian cysts vs. PCOS is that multiple ovarian cysts always characterize PCOS. However, having multiple ovarian cysts is not always related to PCOS. 

Symptoms Of Ovarian Cysts

Most cysts are formed when a normal follicle grows in the ovaries but doesn’t rupture to release an egg. However, cysts can also form due to abnormal cell growth in the ovaries that could be benign or cancerous or due to a pelvic infection. 

Most of the time, ovarian cysts go unnoticed. A female can have cysts while having regular periods and experiencing no symptoms. However, some women also experience a dull and recurring pain in the side of the abdomen where the cyst lies. 

If the cyst bursts, there are instant and obvious symptoms that may include:

  • Sharp pain in the side of the pelvis where the cyst is present
  • Painful bowel movement
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Bloating
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Ovarian cysts are diagnosed by performing an ultrasound to visualize them and create a follicular study report. A follicle must be at least 2.5 to 3 centimeters in diameter to be considered a cyst.

Your doctor might also suggest a blood test to detect any hormonal imbalance and to check the levels of CA-125, a marker hormone for ovarian cancer. 

Treatment Of Ovarian Cysts 

The treatment of an ovarian cyst is not usually necessary. Most of them are functional, which grow as a follicle but don’t rupture to release the egg and resolve on their own over time without causing any symptoms or complications. However, if the cysts don’t go away for a long time after their detection, if they cause any discomfort, or if the doctor suspects it to be cancerous, undergoing treatment is the best option. 

The treatment approach is personalized, depending on factors like whether or not you’ve reached menopause and the size and appearance of the cysts. The treatment options include:

  • Oral contraceptives: To prevent any further ovulation and formation of new follicles and help the body to maintain hormonal balance. 
  • Blood test: A regular blood test helps monitor the hormonal balance and the levels of CA-125 in your body. 
  • Oophorectomy: This is a surgical method to remove one or both of the ovaries and is usually only performed if the doctor suspects the cyst to be cancerous. 

Symptoms Of PCOS 

The most obvious symptom of PCOS is irregular or non-existent periods. The hormonal imbalance in the body leads to several other issues like polycystic ovary cysts and insulin resistance. This, when coupled with obesity, another common occurrence in PCOS, can cause several conditions like diabetes mellitus. Other common symptoms are the result of the heightened levels of male hormones in the body and include:

  • Acne
  • Male pattern loss of hair (androgenic alopecia) 
  • Male pattern hair growth (hirsutism) 

To diagnose PCOS, the doctor would prescribe a blood test to check the hormone levels in your body. They might also perform an ultrasound to visualize the PCOS cysts. A common question about the condition is how many cysts on ovaries for PCOS. And usually, if there are 12 or more tiny cysts detected with other symptoms, doctors associate it with PCOS. 

Treatment Of PCOS

While we know that PCOS is caused by hormonal imbalance, what induces this imbalance is still unknown. Hence, there is no absolute cure for PCOS. The treatment is personalized and involves managing the symptoms and restoring the normal hormonal balance in the body. The options include:

  • Lifestyle changes: Healthy eating habits and regular exercise and physical work help in controlling the symptoms of PCOS. 
  • Medications: These include birth control pills to restore the hormonal balance and induce periods and control the body hair. Doctors also prescribe medicines to control insulin resistance and induce ovulation. 
  • Surgery: Involves applying heat or laser to the ovaries internally to reduce androgen production. The method is called Laparoscopic Ovarian Drilling (LOD). 


At Mulberry Women Care, we deal with your problems with great care and expertise. Our gynecologist and obstetrics specialist, Dr. Ravjyot Kaur, is proficient in her knowledge of the field and possesses unmatched expertise in providing diagnoses, interpreting the results, and assisting treatment accordingly. Abreast with all the new trends, Dr. Ravjyot Kaur always assists her patients with the best possible approach to the treatment and care for all their issues. 

Mulberry Women Care is embedded with the latest hi-tech imaging instrumentations, ensuring accurate and high-quality imaging. We always consider the comfort and well-being of our patients and make sure to provide them with a clean and friendly environment for their diagnosis and treatment. 


1. What do ovarian cyst cramps feel like? 

The nature of the cramps differs among individuals. You might experience a constant dull ache, a recurring dull ache, or a sudden sharp pain. The pain will only be on one sore of your pelvis where the cyst lies. One could have cysts or multiple ovarian cysts on both ovaries, too, which may or may not cause pain at the same time. 

2. What can happen if a cyst is left untreated? 

Many cysts go away on their own and don’t require treatment. However, if the cyst bursts and is left untreated, it could cause pelvic or uterine infections. Also, some cysts could be cancerous, so monitoring them regularly is essential. 

3. What are the first signs of PCOS? 

The marker of PCOS is constant irregular periods. This, coupled with weight gain, male pattern hair growth, oily skin, and acne, can indicate a possibility of PCOS. It’s always best to seek medical advice for the proper diagnosis and management of the condition. 

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