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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.
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.
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.
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.