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Reproductive Health

Ovarian Cysts: They’re More Common Than You Think

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Ovarian cysts are common, and if you’re a woman, there’s a good chance you’ve had one or more without knowing it. The majority are benign. Ovarian cysts come in a few different packages, ranging from no-big-deal-let’s-keep-an-eye-on-it minor blips to cancerous tumors. Some are actually part of a healthy menstrual cycle. 

Every month, healthy ovaries grow follicles that release hormones and then rupture upon ovulation, expelling the egg through the fallopian tube and into the uterus. Sometimes, however, a follicle keeps growing and retaining fluid after the menstrual cycle has completed. These small, fluid-filled sacs are called “functional cysts” and usually resolve themselves in four to eight weeks.

Can other cysts be harmful?

There are a few other types of ovarian cysts; the two most common are cystadenoma and endometrioma. A cystadenoma usually forms on the surface of the ovary and is filled with fluid and tissue. Endometriomas are cystic lesions that stem from the disease progression of endometriosis, a condition where uterine endometrial cells grow outside the uterus. A cyst forms when the cells attach to an ovary and start to grow. An endometrioma is filled with old menstrual blood. A cyst is either simple or complex. A complex cyst should be checked for malignancy. All cysts are generally diagnosed using ultrasound techniques.

Most cysts are painless, but some may cause pain after exercise, having a bowel movement, or with sex. A cyst can also grow large enough to affect the organs and nerves surrounding it, causing severe pain and discomfort. 

Signs of a ruptured cyst

Other than routinely rupturing functional cysts, ovarian cysts are not meant to rupture in the body. Therefore, it’s important to be on the lookout for symptoms of an abnormal ruptured cyst, which include:

  • Sudden, sharp pain
  • Bleeding from the vagina
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Tenderness in the pelvic or abdominal area
  • Feeling faint or weak
  • Fever
  • Increased pain while sitting
  • A full or heavy feeling in the lower abdomen
  • Shoulder pain if bleeding is severe

Sometimes, a ruptured cyst is mistaken for an ectopic pregnancy, appendicitis, or other pelvic condition and vice versa. Most of the time, the rupture of an ovarian cyst is not an emergency, although your doctor will want to check your blood count for infection and might also order an ultrasound. Pain medication and rest is the most common treatment. However, there are occasions where a rupture is more severe; these usually involve heavier bleeding. In these cases, surgery may be required to prevent or stop a hemorrhage. 

Can I prevent cysts from forming?

There is no way to prevent ovarian cysts from forming, and many women have a genetic predisposition to them. Don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor if you experience abnormal pain. Your physician will probably recommend an ultrasound and monitor you for other symptoms. Laparoscopic surgery is available to remove any cyst that has become too large and is causing discomfort.  

While ovarian cysts aren’t always pleasant, they’re generally harmless. Even if one ruptures, recovery is quick. That being said, if you have any questions or concerns about your reproductive health, start a conversation with us. Our experts are ready to listen to you. 

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