Experiencing prolonged or intense abdominal pain and discomfort can undoubtedly be concerning. But while there are many potential causes for such symptoms, they are most commonly associated with ovarian cysts, small tissue- or fluid-filled pouches that typically grow in or on the ovaries.
Read on to learn about the other signs indicating you may have an ovarian cyst and the steps to take when it becomes problematic.
What Causes an Ovarian Cyst?
A follicle normally grows on your ovary every month during your menstrual cycle, and it is where the egg develops. During ovulation, the egg will have reached maturity and is released from the follicle, causing the latter to shrink and go away on its own. You may also experience mild pain that lasts for, at most, a couple of days while ovulating.
However, if this follicle fails to break open and release the egg, the fluid within gets trapped and becomes an ovarian cyst. Only women in their childbearing years develop ovarian cysts, meaning those still in puberty or have reached menopause typically do not experience it. Another factor that can lead to ovarian cysts is fertility drugs, which are known to cause multiple follicles or cysts to grow in the ovaries.
Beyond ovulation, other conditions can cause ovarian cysts, such as abnormal cell reproduction, endometriosis, and pelvic infections like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Signs of an Ovarian Cyst
Most ovarian cysts go away on their own and usually do not cause any symptoms. But in some rare cases, they can keep growing and begin showing different symptoms, like feeling bloated for long periods of time. You may also notice a constant, dull, and aching pain originating from your pelvis, lower back, or lower abdomen. The full list of symptoms associated with ovarian cysts includes:
- Fullness, heaviness, or pressure in the abdomen
- Pain during certain activities, such as intercourse
- Increase or changes in urinary habits or bowel movements
- Pain during bowel movements
- Unanticipated weight gain or loss
- Feeling full too quickly when eating
- Heavier, lighter, or irregular periods than normal
- Nausea or vomiting
The fact that these symptoms are easy to ignore and only one occurs at a time, for the most part, means that most women do not even realize they have one until they are diagnosed incidentally during imaging tests or pelvic exams. However, if the above symptoms show up simultaneously, it is best to contact a doctor or, ideally, a fertility specialist in Singapore for a proper evaluation.
Moreover, if a cyst bursts, bleeds, or causes ovarian torsion, i.e. causing the ovary to twist on itself, a sudden increase in the severity of pain will follow. Other signs of a burst ovarian cyst are:
- Unexpected vaginal bleeding
What to Do if You Have a Cyst
If you are convinced that you have an ovarian cyst and your doctor confirms it, they will most likely have you undergo a pelvic ultrasound to get a closer look and come up with a prognosis best suited for your situation. But depending on the appearance of the cyst, they may recommend waiting for six to eight weeks to see if it goes away on its own.
There is no risk of trying to wait it out before proceeding with medical intervention as there is nothing worrisome inside ovarian cysts, and they are rare cases where they can still develop even after menopause. As such, it is best to monitor them first to ensure they do not grow further.
Occasionally, a cyst may have to be surgically removed. Doctors evaluate whether surgery is necessary by looking at key factors, such as if the cyst is causing debilitating painful symptoms or out of concern for cancer. While cancerous cysts do exist, they are extremely rare, save for those with certain genetic conditions like Lynch syndrome or breast cancer genes, in which case they need to be more concerned if they develop a cyst. Your doctor may also recommend surgery if the sound looks abnormal on the ultrasound or has grown too large.
Ovarian cysts are incredibly common and generally pose no danger to one’s health, save for the rare instances where they grow bigger and do not go away on their own like usual. This enlarged cyst causes different kinds of symptoms, which can be easily overlooked if they occur in isolation. However, if they all happen at once, it is best to consult your healthcare provider immediately.
Should these symptoms get in the way of your daily life, reach out to us at The O&G Specialist Clinic today. Our caring and experienced gynaecologists – Dr Loh and Dr Tung – are always ready to help you address all the gynaecological problems you may encounter in your lifetime. In addition to managing general gynecologic conditions, we also provide infertility treatment in Singapore to help your dreams of having a family become a reality.
Contact us here to learn more, or schedule a virtual consultation today.