Anatomy & Organs

Ovaries – structure, function & diseases


The ovaries are among the most important production sites for the female sex organs . They are responsible for the formation of egg cells and female sex hormones.

What are ovaries?

The ovaries are an internal sex organ in the female body. Every woman has two ovaries. The ovaries are also part of the reproductive organs. Without her, pregnancy would not be possible.

For this reason, some women consider an ovariectomy (removal of the ovaries) as a form of contraception , usually after they have decided to have children . However, this serious procedure can lead to further complications and should be discussed in detail with a specialist ( gynaecologist ).

In medicine they are called ovary (Latin) or oophoron (ancient Greek). Similar to the male testicles , they are responsible for the production of egg cells and female sex hormones.

Anatomy & Structure

The ovaries are covered by a single layer of epithelial tissue. It is a smooth lined tissue, with a transition into the adjacent white connective tissue capsule directly below. The tissue of the ovaries consists of the outer cortex and the inner medulla.The ovarian cortex contains the egg cells, which lie in follicles. Follicles are spherical egg sacs in the ovaries that reach different stages of maturity. For a long time, it was assumed that women are born with a limited number of eggs and that women would become infertile once all the eggs have been consumed. American researchers proved in 2012 that the stem cells for egg cell production are located in the ovaries.

The ovarian medulla consists of connective tissue and contains the lymphatic vessels, nerve fibers and blood vessels of the ovarian plexus.

The ovaries are located in the small pelvis, on the common iliac artery at the level of the bifurcation of the main artery. They can easily be felt with two fingers, one through the vagina and the other through the abdominal wall. Adjacent organs are the ureter , the appendix (located to the right ovary), and the nerve of the lumbar plexus. The ovaries are held in place by three ligaments, which are also made of smooth epithelial tissue.

The ovaries are supplied with blood by the ovarian artery. The ovarian artery comes directly from the main artery. The blood is drained through the ovarian vein. Fibers of the vegetative nervous system form a nerve network and take over the nerve supply.

Functions & Tasks

The ovaries produce the egg cells and sex hormones. Egg cells formed in the ovary (ovary) are expelled monthly during sexual maturity. This is called ovulation.

Other tasks of the ovaries are the production and secretion of female sex hormones. The hormones progesterone and estrogen are important for secondary sexual characteristics such as the female breast and the menstrual cycle. After the menopause , eggs are no longer produced.


Like all other organs, the ovaries can also become diseased. The cause of inflammation of the ovaries (oopheritis) is usually a vaginal infection , whereby germs get into the ovaries and cause inflammation. If the fallopian tube is affected in addition to the ovaries, this is referred to as adnexitis. Severe pain in the lower abdomen and fever indicate such a disease.

Various tumors can attack the ovaries. There is a malignant tumour, ovarian carcinoma ( ovarian cancer ) and benign tumours, such as goiter and Brenner tumor . Fibromas can occur in the ovaries, usually caused by abdominal dropsy (Meigs syndrome).

Cystomas are called glandular tumors in which a cavity filled with secretion forms. The exact causes of ovarian cancer are still unclear. One suspects hormonal reasons or family predisposition. It is claimed that birth control pills and pregnancy can reduce the risk of oval carcinoma by up to 60 percent.

Symptoms such as abdominal pain and pain in the bladder and bowel area are only non-specific. This is why ovarian carcinoma is often only recognized at a late stage. Surgery is usually required to remove the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes.

The gonads can be underactive (hypogonadism). Dysfunctions of the ovaries are polycystic ovary syndrome and ovarian cysts. If the function of the ovaries is disturbed, this is referred to as ovarian insufficiency . The ovaries are no longer able to do their job. This leads, for example, to irregular menstrual bleeding, intermenstrual bleeding or the absence thereof. Infertility is also possible.

The simultaneous presence of testicular tissue in the gonads of the ovaries is called ovotestis. If the system is missing during the development of the embryo, it is called agonadism or gonadal dysgenesis. The dermoid cyst is an abnormal development of the embryo. This creates a cavity lined with epidermal tissue.

Typical & common diseases

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.