Enlarged Ovary

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What is an enlarged ovary?

An enlarged ovary is an ovary that has expanded past its normal size. The cause of this enlargement is often cyst formation. Other causes include endometriosis, benign tumors and, rarely, ovarian cancer.

Many types of cysts can grow within the ovary, such as those called functional cysts that form during menstruation. Another type of cyst is caused by endometrial tissue growing within or on the ovary, as seen with endometriosis. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a condition in which multiple cysts can develop within a single ovary or both ovaries. Both ovarian cancer and metastatic cancer are rare causes of enlarged ovary.

Depending on the cause, an enlarged ovary may occur in one or both ovaries, and it may be accompanied by symptoms in other parts of the body, such as abdominal pain, fever, or unintentional changes in body weight.

Some women with an enlarged ovary have no symptoms at all, while others may have abdominal pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding, difficulty urinating, or pain during sexual intercourse. In some cases, an enlarged ovary may grow large enough to put pressure on the bladder, making it difficult to expel urine.

Enlarged ovary is rarely a serious condition; however, seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, including severe abdominal pain or high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit).

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for an enlarged ovary but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.

What other symptoms might occur with an enlarged ovary?

Enlarged ovary may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the ovaries may also involve other body systems. In some cases, an enlarged ovary may not produce any symptoms.

Pelvic symptoms that may occur along with an enlarged ovary

Pelvic symptoms may accompany enlarged ovary including:

  • Abdominal, pelvic, or lower back pain that can be severe
  • Difficulty urinating (dysuria) and urinary retention
  • Heavy bleeding during menstrual period (menorrhagia)
  • Menstrual pain that is more severe than normal
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Urgent need to urinate
  • Vaginal bleeding that is abnormal

Other symptoms that may occur along with an enlarged ovary

Other symptoms may accompany enlarged ovary including:

Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

In some cases, an enlarged ovary can be a serious condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care if you, or someone you are with, have any of these serious symptoms:

  • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Severe, sudden pain in abdomen

What causes an enlarged ovary?

An enlarged ovary may be caused by one of many types of ovarian cysts, including those that can form with polycystic ovarian syndrome. No matter the type, the cysts can grow, increasing the size of the affected ovary or of both affected ovaries. Often ovarian cysts remain dormant and do not cause symptoms. However, in some cases, the enlarged ovary may twist or become dysfunctional. Ovarian cancer and benign tumors may also lead to an enlarged ovary.

Common causes of an enlarged ovary

Common causes of an enlarged ovary include:

  • Corpus luteum cyst (cyst present in the second half of the menstrual cycle)

  • Dermoid cyst (benign tumor also known as a teratoma)

  • Follicle cyst (cyst that forms during the menstrual cycle)

  • Endometrioma (endometriosis affecting the ovary)

  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (condition than can include multiple cysts in the ovaries)

Other causes of an enlarged ovary

Enlarged ovary can also be the result of other causes including:

  • Congenital abnormality

  • Metastatic cancer

  • Nonmalignant tumor

  • Ovarian cancer

Serious or life-threatening causes of anenlarged ovary

In some cases, enlarged ovary may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include ovarian torsion (twisting of the ovary) that results in a compromised blood supply.

Questions for diagnosing the cause of an enlarged ovary

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your enlarged ovary including:

  • When did you first notice discomfort or pain?

  • Do you feel any pain or discomfort now?

  • Do you have any other symptoms?

  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of an enlarged ovary?

Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Infertility

  • Spread of cancer
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 8
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Ovarian cysts. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ovariancysts.html.
  2. Ovarian cysts fact sheet. WomensHealth.gov. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/ovarian-cysts.html.