Understanding the Symptoms of an Ovarian Cyst

Ovarian cysts are a common problem that many women face. For premenopausal women, ovarian cysts often occur during ovulation or in the early stages of pregnancy. For postmenopausal women, ovarian cysts often result from the buildup of fluid in the ovary.

It’s not uncommon for the symptoms of an ovarian cyst to be somewhat muted. In other words, many women that have an ovarian cyst are unaware that they have one.

If you think you may have an ovarian cyst or simply want to know more about them, you’ve come to the right place!

Read on to learn more about the symptoms of ovarian cysts and their treatment and find out if you need to make an appointment with your gynecologist.

What Is an Ovarian Cyst?

Ovarian cysts are sacs that form in the ovary and fill with fluid. The two most common types of ovarian cysts are follicle and corpus luteum cysts.

Follicles are the small sacs that surround the egg that is released during ovulation once a month. Eggs grow and mature over time and when they have reached maturity, the follicle is supposed to open and release the egg. Follicle cysts occur when the egg is not released and the follicle continues to grow.

Corpus luteum is a term used to describe the mass of cells that develop as the follicle shrinks. After releasing the egg, the follicle should shrink into corpus luteum and begin to produce hormones for your next ovulation cycle. However, if the follicle reseals itself after releasing the egg, it does not shrink but fills with fluid.

We’re often asked if ovarian cysts are cancerous. Most of the time, they are completely benign, meaning that they are noncancerous.

However, women between the ages of 55 and 64 should always go to their gynecologist if they suspect that they have ovarian cysts. This age group is most at risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Symptoms of an Ovarian Cyst

There’s a good chance that you’ve actually had an ovarian cyst before and didn’t notice. As we said before, the symptoms are often subtle and most ovarian cysts can resolve themselves in a matter of weeks or months. However, there are some symptoms associated with ovarian cysts, especially in severe cases, that we will discuss.

Abdominal Discomfort

Most often, women with ovarian cysts may notice discomfort in their abdominal area. This can include pressure or swelling in the lower abdomen or bloating. Abdominal discomfort can range from fleeting and infrequent to sharp, constant, and severe.

Sharp Pain or Nausea

In the event that your ovarian cyst has ruptured or caused your ovary to twist, you may experience more intense pain.

An ovarian cyst rupture often causes sharp pain that feels like severe cramping. For many women, this pain will subside in a matter of hours after the cyst has ruptured.
When an ovarian cyst has caused your ovary to twist, you will likely experience nausea and some vomiting.

Less Common Symptoms

There are some less common symptoms that have been reported by women who were found to have ovarian cysts. Many of these symptoms can be signs of other problems such as UTIs or abnormal menstruation.

This can include pain or tenderness around the breasts, thighs, and lower back. Some women also experience pelvic pain or pain during sex.

Ovarian cysts may also cause abnormal bleeding that occurs when you are not menstruating. They may also cause other bathroom disruptions. Some women experience the need to urinate more frequently while others have reported sensations of not being able to fully evacuate the bowels or bladder.

Finally, some women have reported unexpected weight gain, although this can be very hard to trace back to an ovarian cyst. Our weight often fluctuates with our hormones, which move through their own cycles and are affected by things like diet and exercise.

Urgent Symptoms

Severe ovarian cysts may cause symptoms such as faintness, dizziness, or difficulty breathing. You may also run a fever or experience excruciating pelvic pain. In the event that any of these things happen, seek immediate medical attention.

How Ovarian Cysts Are Treated

If an ovarian cyst is found during an ultrasound of the ovaries or if it is causing severe symptoms, your gynecologist may recommend surgery. This is rare, but when it does occur, you will most likely get a laparoscopic procedure.

Laparoscopy involves making a small incision in the abdomen through which small instruments can be inserted. This allows the doctor to take a closer look at the cyst and decide if it needs to be removed.

In extremely rare cases in which cancer is a concern, doctors may want to remove one or both of your ovaries. This is never any doctor’s go-to procedure for premenopausal women, as ovary removal can cause a myriad of unpleasant symptoms. Your body is deprived of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, which will send you into an early menopausal state.

Typically, ovarian cysts don’t need to be treated at all. Your doctor may want to keep an eye on it to make sure that it doesn’t grow or last longer than a few months, but otherwise, it will often run its course without treatment.

Need an Appointment?

Whether you’re concerned about a possible ovarian cyst or just need your yearly checkup, consider Apple Hill Gynecology. We welcome patients from Harrisburg, Lancaster, and other nearby locations in Pennsylvania.

If you have questions about insurance coverage or what we’re able to treat,  contact us today to set an appointment with Dr. Bornt, a gynecologist in York PA.