When Ovarian Cysts Become Problematic

Ovarian cysts occur in about 8%-18% of premenopausal and postmenopausal women. They’re fluid-filled sacs that form inside or on an ovary. While ovarian cysts can occur for different reasons, most are harmless.

You can have an ovarian cyst and not know it. Many ovarian cysts exist without symptoms and disappear on their own. Ovarian cysts are usually benign, though they can be malignant. 

Most ovarian cysts are discovered during a pelvic exam. The OB/GYNs of North Texas OB/GYN in Plano, Texas, provide expert care for ovarian cysts. When an ovarian cyst is suspected, an in-office ultrasound confirms a diagnosis and determines the location and condition of a cyst. Your physician recommends treatment based on these findings and consideration of other factors including your medical history and overall health. 

While most ovarian cysts aren’t a cause for concern, abnormal ovarian cysts can cause life-threatening circumstances and require treatment. Read on to find out how these cysts can become problematic and what you can expect if this happens to you.

Complications of ovarian cysts

Abnormal ovarian cysts can occur for several reasons. An ovarian cyst can break open or rupture. A ruptured cyst can result in the loss of a large amount of blood and fluid. 

Depending on its location, an ovarian cyst can cause twisting of the fallopian tube. This can interfere with your normal blood supply to the affected ovary. Ovarian cysts related to polycystic ovary syndrome or endometriosis can make it more difficult to get pregnant. 

Most ovarian cysts aren’t cancerous. However, ovarian cysts that develop after menopause have a higher risk of being cancerous because your risk for developing cancer increases as you age.  

Symptoms that require care

Most ovarian cysts don’t cause discomfort or any noticeable symptoms. When symptoms occur, they typically involve pelvic pain, irregular periods, and pain after sex. Other common symptoms can include bloating, swelling, or pain in the abdomen on the side of the cyst. If you experience pain, it may start and stop.

Problematic cysts cause more intense symptoms. If a cyst ruptures, you may experience sudden, severe pain. Cysts that result in twisting of an ovary can cause intense pain accompanied by nausea and vomiting. 

If you experience any of the following symptoms with an ovarian cyst, you should get immediate medical treatment:

Treatment for problematic ovarian cysts

When an ovarian cyst appears normal, your OB/GYN may recommend watchful waiting. This involves repeated ultrasounds to determine if the cyst changes in size or appearance over time. Most cysts dissolve on their own within one or two menstrual cycles. Pain relievers can help relieve the discomfort of symptoms but don’t speed their resolution. 

You may require surgical removal of your ovarian cyst based on its location, size, and condition. A regular cyst appears clear, while a complex cyst has surface bumps, solid areas, or areas filled with fluid. Rupture of a complex ovarian cyst is more likely to require surgical removal. 

Removal of an ovarian cyst typically involves a laparoscopy, a procedure that removes the cyst using a small cut just below your navel. Your physician uses a laparoscope, a long, thin rod with a camera on the end, to remove the cyst through this cut in your abdomen.

If you have a larger cyst, removal may require a laparotomy. This procedure involves making an incision across your abdomen to remove the cyst. A laparotomy is also common if your physician suspects a cancerous ovarian cyst. If the biopsy taken during surgery indicates the presence of cancer, having the larger cut available allows for an immediate hysterectomy.

While you can’t prevent ovarian cysts, you can reduce the likelihood of developing them. Taking hormonal birth control pills stops you from ovulating, which lowers your risk of getting new cysts. 

Find out more about your risk for developing ovarian cysts and ways to manage this condition. Call our office to schedule an appointment for a consultation. 

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