An ovarian cyst is a pocket or sac that forms within an ovary. Cysts may be fluid-filled or solid.
Most cysts do not cause any symptoms as they normally disappear after a couple of months. But in some instances, the cysts do not disappear and can cause quite a few complications and issues.
Some symptoms and complications that may occur are menstrual irregularities, pain during sexual intercourse, and bowel movements that are irregular.
How Do Ovarian Cysts Start?
Two distinct types of ovarian cysts are based on their involvement with the menstrual cycle.
These are the cysts that usually develop during the menstrual cycle. The ovaries form multiple small cysts called follicles. These follicles produce various hormones such as estrogen and progesterone.
The follicles rupture to allow an egg to migrate during ovulation to the uterus. If an egg is not released or if the follicle does not discharge its fluid, the follicle will reduce in size and may develop into a cyst when it increases in size again. Functional cysts are also seen as benign.
These are cysts that are formed due to the cells growing abnormally and are not related to the menstrual cycle at all. They may develop from the cells that create the eggs or they may develop from the surface of the ovary.
They may increase in size to the point where they either rupture or they block the blood supply to the ovaries. They are usually benign but rarely they may end up being cancerous and they need to be surgically removed.
What Are The Early Warning Signs?
Most of the time, ovarian cysts are noncancerous or benign but there are rare cases where an ovarian cyst is cancerous or a sign of potential cancer. Cysts usually form during the ovulation phase of a female’s menstrual cycle.
You might feel pain around your lower abdomen or belly. The pain can be described as a dull cramping sensation or a sharp stabbing pain. The pain may also be irregular - it may be continuous or vary in intensity, with days where you feel no pain at all.
The pain related to the cysts usually increases during the menstrual phase of your cycle. The hormones produced at that time may cause unruptured cysts to enlarge and resulting in increased pressure in the abdomen. Referred pain may also be experienced where the pain may be felt in the lower back or your thighs.
Bloating during the menstrual cycle is a normal symptom but if the bloating seems unusual (different from the normal bloating you experience every month), this may be caused by a cyst growing larger.
Nausea And Vomiting
Sometimes a cyst will cause one of the ovaries to twist and cause torsion. This will also inflict increased pain which may cause nausea and vomiting.
Irregular Bowel Movements And Urination
If an ovarian cyst grows large enough, it may cause pressure on the bladder. In these cases, you may have to urinate frequently or have trouble emptying your bladder. The pressure may also extend to the colon where the bowel movements may be obstructed or blocked.
An ovarian cyst may become infected and this may cause a fever to develop.
Cysts may cause unexpected bleeding due to the pressure or it could be due to the obstruction it is causing inside of the body. Unexplained bleeding is a sign no one should ignore. If this happens to you, please seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Unintentional And Unexplained Weight Gain
Some ovarian cysts may grow very large. Adding into account normal bloating, water retention during the period phase of the menstrual cycle, and an increasing mass (cyst) in the abdomen, you may note a sudden, unexplained increase in weight.
If you have an ovarian cyst, intercourse may be uncomfortable, or even painful. There is a type of cyst called an endometrioma that specifically causes pain during intercourse and is most likely seen in patients that have endometriosis.
Some women are diagnosed with a condition called PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and they have multiple cysts forming on their ovaries. Most women who have been diagnosed with PCOS have difficulty falling pregnant.
Best Treatment for Ovarian Cysts
There are various treatment methods for ovarian cysts such as surgery, medication, or home remedies (that might not be as effective but may decrease some of the symptoms). The first line of treatment will be to undergo an ultrasound to determine if the cyst is still present, if he has enlarged, or if it has reduced in size.
Blood tests may also be requested every four months. Surgery (laparotomy or laparoscopy conducted under general anaesthetic) will be considered if the cysts are large, causing symptoms, are considered to be potentially cancerous, or if they are persistent.
Other means to relieve symptoms include NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) which can be sourced over the counter, a relaxing massage which may loosen tensed-up muscles which may be the cause of extra pain, dietary changes, weight loss, meditation to reduce anxiety and stress, and using heat to relieve pain.