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How Does Ovarian Ultrasound Differentiate Various Types of Cysts?

Ultrasound Scans
Ovarian Ultrasound

Ovarian cysts commonly occur in females during their reproductive years. Although most cysts are benign, some may be due to another medical condition. Ovarian cysts are fluid-containing sacs that form on or inside the ovaries. Ovaries are reproductive organs involved in producing eggs each month. Knowing the type of cyst you have is important to avoid any complications. Ovarian Ultrasound plays an important role in the detection of multiple types of cysts. Let’s explore more about its details. 

What are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts?

Females diagnosed with benign or malignant cysts are asymptomatic in most cases. However, the most common symptoms are pain and feeling of pressure in the lower abdomen and pelvic region. Other symptoms, such as acute pain, can be due to complications of ovarian cyst, i.e., haemorrhage, ovarian torsion, cyst rupture, or pelvic inflammatory disease. 

What are the Types of Ovarian Cysts?

There are numerous types of ovarian cysts with almost similar symptoms. Fortunately, ovarian ultrasound helps to detect these cysts. The two primary types of ovarian cysts are functional and non-functional cysts. Most cysts are functional types that develop due to hormonal influences during the menstrual cycle. Functional cysts do not result from disease; instead, they form during ovulation and go away independently. 


Non-functional cysts develop without any hormonal impact. Some other types result from a medical condition and may have malignant potential. The following are common types of cysts that develop in females:

Physiologic Cysts

In the ovulation phase, the mature follicle ruptures to release an oocyte, forming the corpus luteum, which shrinks in size. If the Graffian follicle does not rupture and gets more significant, a follicular cyst develops. Also, if the corpus luteum fails to shrink and gets bigger, a corpus luteum cyst forms. Both types of cysts can later develop into a hemorrhagic cyst.


Dermoids are a non-functional type of cyst, also called Mature cystic teratoma. These cysts develop on ovaries and contain tissues like hair, bone, fat, teeth, skin, etc. Although dermoids are benign, they might rupture at any time and release the contents. 

Hemorrhagic Cysts

Ovaries have an avascular layer called granulosa. However, this layer vascularizes, i.e., develops blood vessels, after the ovulation phase. The vascularized granulosa contains thin-walled blood vessels that might rupture easily, leading to the formation of a hemorrhagic cyst.

Ovarian Malignancy

These are complex ovarian cysts associated with a high risk of developing ovarian carcinoma. These complex cysts contain both solid and fluid-filled regions. Most ovarian cancers develop in the fallopian tubes and then advance to the ovaries.


Endometrioma develops from the endometrial tissue and consists of menstrual blood. Endometrial cells that form the uterus wall are sloughed off during the menstrual cycle. Endometriomas form due to inflammation in the endometrium, i.e., endometriosis. It may occur due to retrograde menstruation or a bleeding endometrial implant.

How Ovarian Ultrasound Diagnoses Different Types of Cysts?

Ultrasound examination is the gold standard diagnostic technique for differentiating various ovarian cyst types. Identifying the type of cyst is essential for deciding whether it requires intervention or should be left as such. Different cyst types show different patterns upon ultrasound examination.


  • A simple ovarian cyst is a thin-walled and fluid-filled transparent region without any septa and increased transmission of echo waves. 
  • Hemorrhagic cyst shows a spider web-like pattern due to the presence of blood vessels. 
  • Dermoids appear as a complex hyperechoic mass due to the presence of other solid tissues.
  • Endometrioma looks homogenous, like crushed glass. 
  • Ovarian malignancies seem like solid regions with thick septa and show less echo transmission.

The Bottomline

The development of ovarian cysts is a regular activity and is commonly asymptomatic. Most cysts are diagnosed during routine examinations. Although most of these cysts are harmless, some may cause cancers. Ovarian screening is essential to know the type of cyst and risk of developing cancers. RIZ Ultrasound is a leading ultrasound clinic in Glasgow. We have a team of experts who use advanced tools and provide effective imaging results.

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