An ovarian cyst is a liquid-filled sac that develops on one of the ovaries. It is common for most women to develop at least one cyst during their lifetime, as a result of the normal function of the menstrual cycle.
There are different types of ovarian cysts, such as dermoid and endometrioma cysts. However, functional cysts are the most common. The two types of functional cysts include follicle and corpus luteum cysts.
Although experts are not yet sure why some women develop ovarian cysts and others do not, they have identified several risk factors. Some risk factors are smoking; family history of ovarian, breast or colorectal cancer; obesity; women who have never been pregnant; women who did not breastfeed their children; and certain medications, such as fertility drugs or hormone replacement therapy.
Most ovarian cysts do not cause any signs or symptoms and they go away on their own. This is particularly true of functional cysts. However, a large cyst can cause some discomfort.
Also, you may start noticing symptoms if the cyst starts bleeding, breaks open, twists the fallopian tube or interferes with the blood supply to the ovary.
It is important to be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cysts because some symptoms are an indication that immediate medical attention is needed.
Here are 10 warning signs of ovarian cysts that women should not ignore.
1. Pelvic Pain
Pain in the pelvic area or the lower back is one of the strongest indications of ovarian cysts.
The growth of an ovary cyst exerts pressure on the surrounding areas, leading to intense pain. You may experience such pelvic pain when you are in the middle of your menstrual cycle.
An intact cyst may cause mild pain, but a ruptured cyst can cause sharp pain in the lower abdomen.
It is not uncommon for women suffering from pelvic pain to associate it with menstrual cramps or indigestion.
But if the pelvic pain persists and becomes intense with time, see your doctor for a thorough medical checkup and proper diagnosis.
2. Stomach Bloating
Fullness or heaviness in the abdomen is a common issue that occurs during menstruation. But stomach bloating may happen for many other reasons, including an ovarian cyst as well as ovarian cancer.
If a growing cyst takes up a substantial amount of space in the abdomen, it causes a feeling of pressure or fullness along with noticeable bloating and distension. Once the cyst ruptures, the pressure may subside, and you may get relief from the bloating and distension.
As bloating could be attributed to a number of other causes, such as indigestion and overeating, most women do not take it seriously. But it is important to see your doctor if it persists for more than three weeks, even after trying the usual remedies for all possible causes.
3. Painful Intercourse
Because ovarian cysts develop in an already-crowded area, they add pressure to an area that is already under strain. So, when there is added pressure on the abdominal or pelvic region due to intercourse, it can cause a lot of pain.
In fact, if a cyst becomes large, even the slightest penetration can lead to extreme pain. But for menopausal women, this also may be a sign of ovarian cancer and only a doctor can properly diagnosis the cause.
If you feel pain during or after intercourse, you should seek immediate medical help.
4. Frequent or Urgent Need to Urinate
Another possible sign of an ovarian cyst is a constant feeling of needing to urinate or having to pee numerous times in a day.
When a large cyst exerts pressure on the bladder, you may feel the need to urinate more frequently because the bladder capacity is reduced. You may also have trouble fully emptying the bladder. Frequent urination may or may not be accompanied by pain and a burning sensation.
You should always see a doctor to get a urinalysis and figure out the root cause of the problem.
5. Painful and Abnormal Menstruation
Suddenly having a painful or abnormal menstrual cycle that involves a lot of blood discharge also can be a warning sign of an ovarian cyst.
Many women who have a ruptured ovarian cyst experience more blood loss during their menstruation. Plus, there may be pain in the pelvic region just before your period starts or ends.
Heavy blood loss can make a person anemic quickly, so always see your doctor to find out the root cause.
If you have undergone menopause, any kind of bleeding from the vaginal area is a cause for concern and you must immediately see your doctor.
6. Pain during Bowel Movements
Pain during bowel movements or pressure on your bowels is also a warning sign of an ovarian cyst.
The sudden pain during bowel movements happens when a large cyst exerts pressure on the stomach, bowel and bladder. Depending upon the area on which the pressure is exerted, you may experience mild or severe pain.
If such pain becomes persistent, frequent and unpredictable, make an appointment with your doctor.
7. Nausea or Vomiting
Nausea or vomiting like that experienced during pregnancy can also indicate an ovarian cyst.
Nausea is often a symptom of a ruptured ovarian cyst. This can happen when fluid from the cyst spills into the abdomen and irritates the peritoneal lining, which in turn can cause inflammation in the abdomen. Such inflammation can bring on a nausea-like feeling.
Along with nausea, some women may also experience vomiting.
If the symptoms of nausea and vomiting are persistent, frequent and unpredictable, immediately make an appointment with your doctor.
8. Vaginal Bleeding or Bloody Discharge
When blood or excess fluid from a ruptured cyst is released into the abdomen, some of this fluid may come out of the body as vaginal bleeding or a bloody discharge.
As cysts are likely to rupture around the time of a woman’s period, most women take it as normal spotting or discharge before or after a period.
If you notice vaginal bleeding or a bloody discharge along with extreme pelvic pain, do not take it lightly. Always consult your doctor when experiencing any bleeding or spotting that is not normal for you.
9. Breast Tenderness
In addition to nausea and vomiting, you may experience breast tenderness like that experienced during pregnancy. In fact, the constant breast tenderness could be accompanied by irregular periods.
Hormonal changes in the body may cause both ovarian cysts as well as breast tenderness.
When experiencing breast tenderness, along with other signs and symptoms of ovarian cysts, make sure to visit your doctor soon.
10. Eating Problems due to Feeling of Fullness
A woman who has an ovarian cyst may also have problems eating.
If you are a good eater and suddenly notice a loss of appetite or you are getting full after eating just a few bites of food, this is not a good sign. It can be a warning sign of an ovarian cyst.
A large cyst in an ovary impacts the digestion process as there is not much room for food, which can lead to loss of appetite.
Apart from a cyst, it can indicate much bigger health issues, including ovarian cancer. Furthermore, losing your normal appetite will result in weight loss and constant fatigue.
Routine gynecologic exams can help in detecting ovarian cysts early. This is why experts highly recommend consulting your doctor if you experience changes in your menstrual cycle, progressive pelvic pain, unexpected weight loss, loss of appetite or abdominal fullness.