Although they’re about the size and shape of an almond, a woman’s ovaries are beautifully complex organs. They produce a woman’s eggs, they make the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, and they store and release eggs each month resulting in a menstrual cycle. However, keeping an eye on ovarian health to avoid complications is vital. A few of the most common ovarian disorders include ovarian cysts, polycystic ovary syndrome, ovarian cancer, and premature ovarian failure. Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs on the ovaries. Oftentimes they’re harmless and go away by themselves. In fact, most women have ovarian cysts at some point in their lives, and they’re rarely cancerous to women under 50. However, you may want to monitor your cysts or have surgery if they result in pain that does not go away. One serious health problem that ovarian cysts may indicate is polycystic ovarian syndrome. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) happens when a woman’s ovaries or adrenal glands produce more male hormones than normal. Cysts develop on the ovaries with PCOS, leading to symptoms including infertility, pelvic pain, excess hair growth, baldness or thinning hair, acne, oily skin, dandruff, or patches of thickened, dark skin. Women with PCOS are at a higher risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Ovarian cancer is not common, but it can be deadly. It’s hard to detect early and symptoms may be absent or mild until it is in its advanced stages and hard to treat. Premature ovarian failure (POF) occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop working before she is 40. With POF, some women still have occasional periods and can get pregnant, although usually not naturally. Later symptoms are similar to menopause such as hot flashes, decreased sex drive, and irritability.
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