Enlarged ovaries: Symptoms, causes, and treatment

Although their size can vary naturally from person to person, ovaries can also become enlarged for several reasons.

Although some causes of enlarged ovaries are harmless, such as ovulation, others may require treatment.

This article will review the symptoms, causes, and treatment of enlarged ovaries.


While enlarged ovaries do not always cause symptoms, people with this condition may experience:

  • changes in bowel habits
  • increased urinary urgency
  • irregular menstrual cycle
  • pelvic pain or pressure
  • pelvic swelling or feelings of fullness
  • persistent abdominal discomfort, such as bloating or nausea
  • thinning hair on the head
  • excess hair elsewhere on the body
  • unexplained fatigue
  • weight gain or weight loss

Sometimes, the ovaries may become so enlarged that a person or doctor can feel the ovary in the pelvis, but this is not often the case.

When someone has symptoms that could indicate enlarged ovaries or another ovarian condition, a doctor is likely to recommend an ultrasound.

An ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of the pelvic organs. Doctors may do the ultrasound across the abdomen (transabdominal) or insert the probe into the vagina (transvaginal).

Ovaries may look enlarged during pregnancy due to a luteoma. A luteoma is a benign growth on the ovary that only occurs during pregnancy.

Doctors are not sure why some women develop luteomas while others do not, but they believe that the increased hormone levels during pregnancy may play a role.

Most luteomas do not cause symptoms. A doctor will usually detect one during a routine ultrasound or when performing a cesarean delivery.

Women who have luteomas during the first half of their pregnancy tend to experience more severe symptoms and may even require surgery to remove the growths.

Possible symptoms of luteomas include difficulty urinating, high levels of testosterone, and virilization, which is the appearance of typically male characteristics, such as a deeper voice and increased body hair.

Luteomas usually resolve after a woman gives birth, so doctors try to avoid surgery whenever possible.

The treatment for enlarged ovaries will depend on the underlying cause.

For example, steps for managing PCOS may include:

  • Losing weight, as even a 10 percent reduction in body weight can help to minimize symptoms and make periods more regular.
  • Taking hormonal birth control pills, as these can help to regulate the menstrual cycle.
  • Taking anti-androgen medications.
  • Taking metformin, a medication that may help to control insulin levels and excess androgen hormones.

Treatments for ovarian cancer may include the removal of the ovaries and any surrounding tissue that the disease affects.

A doctor may also recommend chemotherapy to kill cancer cells and radiation treatments to reduce the size of the tumors before removing them.

Enlarged ovaries related to the menstrual cycle do not require treatment unless they are causing uncomfortable symptoms.


Enlarged ovaries can have multiple causes, most of which do not lead to any long-term problems.

People who are experiencing pelvic pain and fullness or changes in their bowel and bladder habits should visit a doctor. A variety of treatments can help to reduce symptoms.

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