Ovarian cysts are small sacs that develop on your ovaries and fill with fluid. About 10% of women experience ovarian cysts in their lifetimes, and most of the time, they’re completely harmless.
But it’s possible for ovarian cysts to cause discomfort and raise concerns about potential complications. If you’re worried about the risks of ovarian cysts, you’re in the right place.
Dr. A. Michael Coppa and our team provide comprehensive gynecologic care for women in Cranston, Providence, and Smithfield, Rhode Island. In this blog, we’re exploring the nature of ovarian cysts and when your symptoms might be cause for concern.
Understanding ovarian cysts
Although they’re growths, most ovarian cysts are a normal part of your menstrual cycle. Functional cysts form during ovulation. They’re usually small, asymptomatic, and resolve without medical intervention.
But other types of cysts can form. Dermoid cysts develop from the cells that produce eggs during ovulation. Endometriomas are a type of endometriosis and form when the endometrial tissue that normally lines your uterus grows outside it and attaches to your ovaries.
Cystadenomas are ovarian cysts that develop from the surface of the ovary.
All these types can grow quite large or multiply, leading to noticeable symptoms and potential complications.
Possible signs of ovarian cysts
Most of the time, ovarian cysts don’t cause symptoms, and you may have them without knowing it. But depending on the size, type, and location of the cyst, certain symptoms may arise.
Pelvic pain from ovarian cysts can range from mild discomfort to sharp, stabbing pain. It may be intermittent or persistent. It typically occurs on one side of your lower abdomen or pelvis and can be accompanied by uncomfortable bloating or pressure.
Ovarian cysts can sometimes disrupt your normal hormonal balance, particularly if you have polycystic ovary syndrome. If cysts interfere with your hormones, you might experience irregular menstrual periods, heavy bleeding, or spotting between periods.
Large cysts or cysts located in specific places around your reproductive organs can cause pain, discomfort, or feelings of pressure during sexual intercourse.
Urinary or digestive issues
In some cases, large cysts can exert pressure on your bladder or intestines. If that happens, you might experience frequent urination, difficulty emptying your bladder completely, or gastrointestinal disturbances like bloating or even nausea.
When to go to the doctor for ovarian cysts
While most ovarian cysts are benign and resolve spontaneously, certain scenarios warrant medical evaluation:
Persistent or severe symptoms
If you experience persistent or worsening pelvic pain, or if the pain is accompanied by fever, vomiting, or severe abdominal pain, seek prompt medical attention. These symptoms may indicate a more severe condition, like a ruptured cyst, ovarian torsion, or other complications.
Even if you don’t have pain, you should go to the doctor if your menstrual cycles are irregular for more than a month or two at a time. Medical evaluation is important if you experience other menstrual abnormalities along with ovarian cysts, to rule out other underlying conditions.
Rapid cyst growth
Most cysts stay small or grow larger over time. If you have a cyst that grows rapidly or reaches a significant size (usually larger than 5 centimeters), it may require further investigation. Rapid growth could be a sign of a potentially malignant (cancerous) cyst.
History of ovarian cancer
If you have a family history of ovarian cancer or you’ve had ovarian cancer before, any ovarian cyst should be closely monitored to lower your risk of cancerous growth.
Most ovarian cysts are harmless and resolve spontaneously, but certain symptoms and circumstances shouldn’t be ignored.
If you have concerning symptoms, make an appointment with Dr. Coppa and our team for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Early detection and timely intervention are key to ensuring optimal reproductive health and well-being.
Call the office nearest you or book your first appointment online today.