Young woman on desktop computer looking up if ovarian cysts are genetic

Are ovarian cysts genetic?

Medically reviewed on August 17, 2022 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Sometimes an ovarian cyst will come and go without you knowing it was there. Others can be painful and may even cause further health and fertility problems. If you’ve experienced them, you might wonder, are ovarian cysts genetic?

The answer is a little complex because research on the topic isn’t conclusive. Some evidence suggests that certain individuals may be more genetically predisposed to specific types of functional ovarian cysts. [1] Furthermore, genetics and your family history might shape how your ovarian cysts are evaluated and treated.

This guide will walk you through the details you need to know about what an ovarian cyst is, causes, and when you should worry about it when it comes to genetic testing.

Do ovarian cysts run in families?

Your genetic make-up might cause you to be more prone to functional ovarian cysts, although researchers don’t know for certain. What is known is that some conditions that cause specific types of ovarian cysts are likely linked to your genetics. For example, endometriosis is thought to have a hereditary link. [2] Endometriosis can cause the formation of functional cysts on your ovaries.

Who is prone to ovarian cysts?

Your genes aren’t the only potential reason you might be prone to ovarian cysts. Those who may get ovarian cysts include: [3]

  • Women who menstruate regularly
  • Those who have not yet reached menopause
  • Individuals who have menstrual or hormonal irregularities
  • Those who suffer from certain health conditions such as endometriosis or PCOS

The likelihood of you having ovarian cysts depends primarily on your age and if you have any underlying conditions that can contribute to the formation of cysts.

What causes ovarian cysts?

Ovarian cysts have several causes. Some cysts are very small, cause no symptoms or risk factors, and go away on their own. Others may cause severe pain and discomfort. The cause of your cysts can influence whether you know it’s there. Common causes of ovarian cysts include: [4]

  • Your menstrual cycles – Your ovaries contain hundreds of thousands of follicles. Each of these follicles protects an immature egg. When you ovulate, a mature egg is released from its follicle into your uterus. If the egg isn’t released, it may continue to grow in the follicle and become a benign cyst. Even if the egg is released, the remaining follicle material may reseal itself and fill with fluid, also becoming a cyst. If you’re asking yourself, “What is a follicle on the ovary,” make sure to read up on the topic to familiarize yourself with your reproductive system and potential fertility treatment.

    Related: What is a follicle on the ovary?

  • Endometriosiss – Endometriosis is a condition that causes the tissue that lines your uterus to grow elsewhere—including on the ovaries. As this tissue forms on the ovaries, it can cause a cyst to develop. If the cyst later bursts, it can cause abdominal pain and potential scarring on the ovary.
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) – When your body produces excess androgens (hormones such as testosterone), you may not ovulate. This condition is known as PCOS. Over time, the lack of ovulation can result in large cysts forming on your ovaries as the mature eggs aren’t able to exit their follicles.
  • Pelvic infections – Certain pelvic infections can also cause dangerous and large cysts to form on your ovaries, causing pelvic pain. If these cysts burst, they can cause sepsis, a deadly condition.

The impact of ovarian cysts on your health depends on which type of cyst you have.

Are ovarian cysts dangerous?

Most ovarian cysts aren’t dangerous. You might not even know you have one. However, in certain situations, they can cause pain, discomfort, and other problems. Situations when ovarian cysts may be a cause for greater concern include [4]:

  • Cysts that rupture and cause heavy bleeding
  • Cysts that create a cancer risk from an ovarian tumor
  • Cysts that result from an infection that burst and put you at risk for sepsis
  • Cysts that continue to grow and don’t go away on their own
  • Cysts that look unusual when you have a pelvic ultrasound
  • Cysts that cause you severe or sudden pain
  • Cysts caused by endometriosis or PCOS that can impact fertility

In these situations, you may need to visit your healthcare provider to determine the best way to proceed in order to help avoid ovarian cancer risk. Sometimes the pain of a cyst can be managed with over-the-counter medication. Other times, hormonal birth control might be prescribed to help manage the formation of cysts. In the most serious situations, surgery may be required to remove a cyst. If you’re wondering how I can shrink ovarian cysts, your healthcare provider may be able to provide you with additional information.

Evaluate where your fertility hormone levels stand with Everlywell

Ovarian cysts are quite common. Many people may have them and not even realize that they’re there. Most ovarian cysts are benign, although even some benign cysts can cause health problems. In some cases, the causes of benign ovarian cysts may interfere with your ability to get pregnant. Endometriosis, PCOS, and other conditions can cause ovarian cysts and contribute to fertility problems. So, if you’re wondering how to get pregnant with ovarian cysts, be sure to speak to a fertility specialist.

If you’re having trouble getting pregnant or simply want to gain a better understanding of where your current fertility hormone levels stand, we can help. You can use the Everlywell Female Hormone Test to measure other key, fertility-influencing hormones so you can make informed decisions about your health and wellness.

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  1. PubMed. A Possible Genetic Factor in the Pathogenesis of Ovarian Dermoid Cysts. URL. Accessed August 17, 2022.
  2. PubMed. Genetics and Genomics of Endometriosis. URL. Accessed August 17, 2022.
  3. Ovarian Cysts. URL. Accessed August 17, 2022.
  4. NHS. Ovarian Cysts. URL. Accessed August 17, 2022.
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