What are Some Ovarian Cyst Symptoms?

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  • Originally Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
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  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2018
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Ovarian cysts can be difficult to diagnose since they may not actually have any recognizable symptoms, but when symptoms do occur some of the most common are irregular menstruation, abdominal pain, and digestive issues, particularly intestinal cramps and painful bowel movements. Cysts are often very small at first and they aren’t often noticeable until they start causing problems. As they grow, they can put pressure on the uterus, abdomen, and intestinal tract, and if they rupture it’s often a medical emergency. Some symptoms of rupture include debilitating stomach pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and loss of consciousness. In some cases cyst symptoms can also look like the symptoms of other conditions, particularly ectopic pregnancy and appendicitis, both of which are very serious. For this reason, anyone who is concerned about the possibility of cysts is usually advised to get prompt medical help in order to rule out these or other conditions, as well as to set up a treatment plan.

Problems With Menstruation

One of the most common ovarian cyst symptoms is an irregular menstrual cycle. Cysts on the ovaries can impact ovulation as well as the body’s reaction to ovulation, which can alter the cycle of a woman’s uterine bleeding. Many women with irregular periods can find some relief with hormone-based medication, but this won’t usually work when cysts are to blame since cysts are fluid-filled growths that don’t usually respond to fluctuating chemical signals.


Abdominal Pain

As the cysts grow, they may also begin putting pressure on the fallopian tubes and the uterus. This can cause a woman to feel cramps in her lower abdomen, and she may also feel more generalized stomach pain. This pain is frequently described as radiating out of the lower abdomen, and often tends to come and go somewhat sporadically.

Digestive Distress

Depending on where they cysts are they can also cause a range of digestive problems. Bloating, gas, and difficulty passing stool tend to be among the most common. These are primarily caused when the cysts are large enough to put pressure on the intestines, which typically sit just behind the female reproductive system. As with pain, these sorts of symptoms tend to come and go and can depend on a lot of factors, including swelling, inflammation, and cyst size.

Symptoms of Rupture

If a cyst ruptures the problem is often a lot more serious. On their own, most ovarian growths aren’t necessarily problematic, particularly if they’re small. Things get more complicated when they break, as they can then spill fluid into the reproductive tract and dramatically increase the risk of hemorrhage and infection. Both conditions can be life threatening. Symptoms of potential rupture include severe pain in the abdomen, which may be accompanied by vomiting or nausea and fever. A feeling of weakness or being lightheaded and difficulty breathing is also common, and a person’s skin may be cold or clammy.

Getting Help

Most medical professionals recommend that anyone who suspects the presence of ovarian cysts, or who otherwise notices abnormal shifts in health or well-being in the abdominal and intestinal region, get help to rule out potentially serious conditions. Ectopic pregnancy, which is when a fertilized egg becomes lodged in the fallopian tube rather than in the uterus, is one of the most serious conditions that can be mistaken for a cyst; appendicitis, which is a swelling of the appendix, is another. Pelvic inflammatory disease and some ovarian cancers can also start out looking like cysts, at least in the beginning.

For the most part, ovarian cyst symptoms aren't usually considered dangerous or even problematic on their own. Many women live with small growths for many years without even realizing it, and are able to manage the periodic discomfort. When there is a risk of rupture or when the cysts are otherwise casing extraordinary pain, though, treatment is usually necessary. Sometimes certain medications can reduce swelling, but it’s more common for problematic growths to be removed surgically. This process tends to be invasive so is often used as a last resort.


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Discuss this Article

Post 9

I occasionally have irregular menstrual cycles. I'm having one right now that has lasted almost two months. I've been to have a pap test done twice and both times there was too much blood for the doctor to give me one.

Within the past two weeks, I have been experiencing severe sudden cramps that will go away within five or ten minutes, lightheadedness, and weakness throughout my entire body. I'm starting to think that I have a cyst that has ruptured but do not know what to do. Any advice is helpful.

Post 8

Over the past three months, a few days before I get my period, I have been having severe lower right pain in my abdomen along with vomiting, diarrhea, and hot and cold spells.

I went to the ER on Friday and they performed a CT scan and said I have a cyst on each of my ovaries and to follow up with an ultrasound at my regular doctor. So five days later I had a pelvic exam which came back negative. They said there were no signs of any cysts. What does this mean? Do I have cysts or not?. I'm confused.

Post 7

I went to the ER with terrible symptoms (thought it was kidney stones) and was diagnosed with a "small" ovarian cyst. The diagnostic papers said "no cause was determined for the pain". What?

My symptoms include: lower back pain, abdominal pain, bloating, mild nausea, worsening menstrual cramps and weight gain.

It's been about two months since diagnosis, and I need to follow up. My symptoms have not gone away at all. I'm a late-20s female with a healthy BMI and no family history of cancer, but I'm scared.

I've always had terrible cramps and strongly suspect endometriosis, but this is a new/different type of pain that came on suddenly.

Post 5

My doctor says that I shouldn't be feeling pain with a cyst and yet today my pain was an 8 through some parts of the day. I mean, it goes away, but man when it's here, it is here! I never know when to go to the ER. My cyst is 4cm on one and 3cm on the other.

Post 4

What would be the signs of a ruptured ovarian cyst? I know that one of the main ruptured ovarian cyst symptoms is pain, but are there others?

I have been told that I'm at a risk for hemorrhagic ovarian cysts, so I'm trying to find out about the symptoms so I can be on the alert.

Can you tell me some of the common hemorrhagic ovarian cyst symptoms, or direct me to a site that can?

Post 3

My mother was recently diagnosed with a complex ovarian cyst, but she didn't have any symptoms. I had read that most of the complex ovarian cyst symptoms were pain, a feeling of fullness or pressure (like you have to pee), and irregular menstrual periods.

The periods didn't apply to her since she had been through menopause, but she said that she never felt any symptoms like you'd expect, or never felt like something was wrong. Her waistline had gotten bigger, sure, but she thought she was just gaining weight.

So just remember, you might want to start getting regular gynological check-ups if you're at risk for ovarian cysts, even if you're post-menopausal. It's much better to keep a check on it and avoid being surprised.

Post 2

Very nicely done -- ovarian cysts can be such a serious condition, but many women don't realize just how much at risk they are.

I always find this a particularly sad condition because of the symptoms. For example, did you know that the symptoms of an ovarian cyst can look like pregnancy symptoms? It's true, the ovarian cyst symptoms and pregnancy symptoms can be the same.

That is, someone with an ovarian cyst can have nausea, vomiting, and breast tenderness, just like many women experience in the early months of pregnancy.

I think that there are few things more crushing than to see a woman come in to get tested for pregnancy and find out that she's got

an ovarian cyst. It's like thinking you're going to get a Christmas present but end up with a bucket of mud.

So just bear that in mind, if you have had other symptoms of ovarian cysts -- irregular period, abdominal pain, or a feeling of pressure in your abdomen -- along with pregnancy symptoms, then see your doctor. Though you may be pregnant, you could also have an ovarian cyst. Knowing the signs and symptoms can save you a lot of heartache.

Post 1

Women do have ovarian cysts on and off, and are not aware of it. However, if a cyst persists and does not shrink, it might be time to remove it.

Water retention in the abdomen is a sign that something is wrong with the ovary, not just a simple cyst. If you can not button your pants, do not automatically assume you are gaining weight. It might be something more serious. Have regular checkups.

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