Nearly every menstruating woman gets an ovarian cyst at least once, and they usually resolve on their own without any trouble. But if the cyst doesn’t go away, or if you develop a problematic type of cyst, you could experience unpleasant symptoms and even require emergency medical care.
Board-certified OB/GYN Asia Mohsin, MD, and the team at Progressive Women’s Health in Friendswood, Texas, understand how confusing ovarian cysts can be. We offer comprehensive care for many women’s health issues, including ovarian cysts.
Dr. Mohsin and the team have put together this guide to help you better understand ovarian cysts, warning signs of trouble, and what you can do to treat a problematic ovarian cyst.
What is an ovarian cyst and why do they develop?
Your ovaries are in charge of producing estrogen and progesterone, and they play a key role in your menstrual cycle, breast health, and reproductive life cycle. During your reproductive years, every month or so, one of your ovaries releases an egg as part of your normal cycle.
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops on or within one of the ovaries. Women develop ovarian cysts for different reasons. Most of the time, they form during normal menstrual cycle processes when an egg is released from the follicle during ovulation. These types of cysts, called functional cysts, aren’t usually a cause for concern.
However, if the egg isn’t released, you can develop a follicular ovarian cyst. At other times, cysts can form outside of your menstrual cycle. These cysts don’t always trigger symptoms, but they can create problematic issues. For example, some women develop multiple cysts due to a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS can cause issues with your fertility as well as your overall health.
How do I know if I have an ovarian cyst?
Many women have ovarian cysts and don't experience obvious symptoms. As a result, ovarian cysts are usually diagnosed during a regular pelvic examination. By scheduling regular well-woman exams with Dr. Mohsin, she can catch any problematic cysts.
While many cysts are asymptomatic, sometimes ovarian cysts can cause problematic symptoms. Here’s a look at the most common signs associated with ovarian cysts:
1. Bloating and/or pressure
Ovarian cysts can cause bloating and pressure in your lower abdomen. These sensations may be constant, or they may come and go.
2. Pain and discomfort
When an ovarian cyst grows larger than normal, you may experience pain and discomfort on the side of the affected ovary. This pain can be dull or sharp.
3. Painful intercourse
Some ovarian cysts can make sexual intercourse painful. However, other gynecological issues, such as prolapse, inflammation, and sexually transmitted diseases, can also trigger pain during sex. Because of this, it’s important to share your symptoms with Dr. Mohsin so she can give you an accurate diagnosis and recommend the best treatment.
4. Bathroom-related problems
Sometimes ovarian cysts can cause changes in your bowel movements or lead to problems with urination, such as an increase in the urge to urinate. For some women, these cysts can make it difficult to empty their bowels.
5. Abnormal period pain
Cramps and pelvic pain aren’t unusual during menstruation, but if you notice unusual pain or excessive cramping, an ovarian cyst could be to blame.
6. Unusual bleeding
Problematic ovarian cysts can trigger unexpected vaginal spotting or abnormal bleeding between periods. This type of bleeding is never normal, so schedule an appointment with Dr. Mohsin if you experience this symptom.
7. Low back and/or thigh pain
If you have a dull ache or pain in your low back and/or thighs that doesn’t have another obvious cause, schedule an appointment with Progressive Women’s Health to rule out ovarian cysts.
Can ovarian cysts cause serious medical issues?
Though not common, ovarian cysts can rupture or twist the ovary. When this happens, it can lead to serious medical complications. If you experience the following symptoms of a ruptured or twisted ovary, seek medical attention right away:
- Abdominal pain that’s accompanied by fever and/or vomiting
- Abdominal pain that appears suddenly and is quite severe
- Abdominal pain that’s accompanied by weakness, dizziness, or fainting
- Unexplained, heavy uterine bleeding that’s accompanied by abdominal pain
You should also get medical help if you notice you have rapid breathing along with abdominal pain.
Are there treatments for ovarian cysts?
Getting treatment for ovarian cysts depends on the cyst and whether it’s causing symptoms. Most of the time, ovarian cysts resolve without any intervention and don’t cause lasting problems. For cysts that require treatment, different options include:
- Monitoring to ensure the cyst resolves
- Medication, such as hormone-based birth control
- Surgery to remove problematic cysts
If you have more questions about ovarian cysts, or if you’re experiencing problematic symptoms, book an appointment online or over the phone with Progressive Women’s Health today.