Almost every woman will suffer from ovarian cysts at some point in their reproductive years. An ovarian cyst is an actual egg follicle on the ovary that forms into a fluid filled sac. It can happen in either one or both ovaries, and many women don’t even know they have a cyst. They come and go, but sometimes a cyst can grow quite large and rupture or injure the reproductive organs. This causes scar tissues and adhesions inside the body. Understanding ovarian cyst symptoms can help reduce the risk of complications likerupture and adhesions.

What Can Cause Ovarian Cysts?

The causes of ovarian cysts include the following:

  • Periods that are irregular
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Unbalanced hormone levels
  • The breast cancer drug Tamoxifen
  • Treatment for infertility with drugs called gonadotropins that can cause large cysts
  • Large amounts of body fat around the middle and upper section of the body
  • The use of the fertility drug Clomifene can raise the occurrence of corpus luteum cysts

What Are the Ovarian Cyst Symptoms?

When a cyst is just a normal egg follicle that did not rupture during ovulation, there may not be any symptoms at all. Such types of cysts usually go away on their own. Cysts that do have symptoms usually fall into two different groups: common ovarian cyst symptoms and complicated ovarian cyst symptoms.

Common Ovarian Cyst Symptoms

  • A dull achy pain on either or both sides of the pelvis before and/or after your period
  • Abnormal hormone symptoms like weight gain and/or excess body hair
  • Irregular periods that are light or heavy
  • Feelings of pressure in the lower pelvis that feel like urges to go to the bathroom
  • Pain during sex
  • Unable to fully empty the bladder of urine
  • Bloating sensation in the lower abdomen
  • Pain with bowel movements
  • Feeling like you may be pregnant i.e. nausea, vomiting or breast tenderness

Complicated Ovarian Cyst Symptoms

Complications of ovarian cysts can include the following:

  • Ovarian cancer. While this is rare, some ovarian cyst symptoms can signal ovarian cancer. If you suffer from any of the above symptoms and are concerned, see your doctor.
  • Torsion. If you have a large cyst near the stem area of the ovary, it can cut off blood supply and cause the ovary to twist up on itself. When this happens, you may feel a severe pain in the lower pelvic area.
  • Burst cysts. Sometimes cysts may grow very large and rupture or burst. The pain is usually severe and may even bleed. There can also be infection, which makes the pain even worse.

When to See a Doctor

There are certain symptoms you shouldn’t ignore and need to get urgent medical attention if you experience the following:

  • Abdominal pain or pain in your pelvic area that occurs suddenly
  • Fever, nausea and vomiting with lower abdominal or pelvic pain

If any of these symptoms are accompanied by fast heartbeat, fast breathing, clammy/cold skin, feeling dizzy and weak, go to your nearest emergency room. These are signs of shock and could signal a more serious condition.

How Is an Ovarian Cyst Diagnosed?

While you are being examined, your doctor will feel an enlarged, swollen ovary in your pelvis. There are also other tests that may be ordered to rule out other conditions. Here are some of the usual tests associated with ovarian cysts:

  • Pregnancy Test. The doctor will test you to see if you are pregnant.
  • Hormone Evaluation. Your hormone levels will be checked. If there are any imbalances that may be causing the problem, the doctor can prescribe birth control or other hormones to help stabilize them.
  • Ovarian Cancer Blood Testing. There is a blood test known as a CA-125 for women who are at risk of ovarian cancer. If these levels are positive, ovarian cancer may be present and you may need further testing.
  • Ultrasound. An ultrasound can locate the ovaries and show cysts. The technician can measure, and see the location and check if they are regular cysts or irregular cysts. If you are pregnant, this can also rule out ectopic pregnancy which is another cause of pelvic pain.

How to Treat Ovarian Cyst

1. Wait and Watch

Your doctor may want to just watch the cyst over the next few months and have you come in to be re-checked. Since cysts tend to resolve on their own without any issues in these groups:

  • Women who don’t have symptoms
  • Women in their childbearing years
  • Women with fluid filled cysts
  • Women after menopause

2. Surgical Intervention

If you have already gone through menopause or have any of the following complications, the doctor may want to do surgery under the following conditions:

  • Your cyst does not resolve on its own after 6 or more menstrual cycles
  • You have constant pain that does not go away
  • Your cyst gets bigger over time
  • The cyst has a “suspicious” appearance on ultrasound examination

If the doctor needs to perform surgery, there are two options:

  • Laparoscopy. If your cyst looks “non-cancerous” the doctor may place you under anesthesia and insert a scope via an incision made in your belly button. The doctor can get a better look at things and remove the cyst if necessary.
  • Laparotomy. If your cyst is “suspicious for cancer” or even cancerous, the doctor may opt for this type of surgery. You will be placed under anesthesia and the doctor will make a larger incision into the abdomen. If the cyst is cancerous or very large, the doctor may have to remove the entire ovary. Keep in mind if one ovary is removed, the other one will still be fertile and produce eggs.

3. Hormones and Birth Control Pills

Hormones and birth control pills can stop your ovaries from producing and releasing eggs every month. This helps to calm down the formation of cysts and allows the ovaries to rest.

Other Things You Should Know

Here are a few questions people usually ask when it comes to ovarian cyst symptoms:

When Do Ovarian Cysts Commonly Happen?

Cysts most commonly happen during their childbearing years. The majority of ovarian cysts have nothing to do with ovarian cancer. Women after menopause do have a higher risk of ovarian cancer. Any woman with symptoms of a cyst should see a doctor for evaluation.

Can Ovarian Cysts Cause a Miscarriage?

For the most part, an ovarian cyst will not hurt your unborn baby. Before pregnancy, cysts can keep you from getting pregnant and sometimes cause infertility. A cyst is actually the formation of an egg follicle and if it does not release the egg from inside then infertility can result. If you have cysts on your ovaries and cannot get pregnant, then you need to talk to your doctor.

How Can I Prevent Ovarian Cysts?

Unfortunately, you can’t prevent an ovarian cyst. But there is some positive news about them:

  • Most ovarian cysts go away by themselves
  • Most ovarian cysts are benign (non-cancerous)
  • Most ovarian cysts cause few symptoms

If you experience any of the following, see your doctor:

  • Cyst symptoms that are severe
  • Irregular periods
  • Increased pelvic pain

More information and experiences can be seen in the following video regarding ovarian cyst symptoms, causes and treatment: