An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled pocket or sac within the ovary or on its surface. Many women will have an ovarian cyst at some point during their lives. In the vast majority of cases, they are completely harmless and come with no or very minimal discomfort. In most cases, these cysts will disappear completely within several months by themselves. In some cases, however, a rupture may occur, where the cyst opens.
What Are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cyst Rupture?
In some cases, you may not notice any symptoms at all following a rupture. In other cases, there may be mild symptoms, but they can also be very serious.
- One of the most obvious symptoms of a ruptured ovarian cyst is the acute pain within the abdomen, particularly in the pelvic area. It can extend into the thighs and lower back. It may be triggered from sexual intercourse or strenuous exercise, or occurs close to your period.
- Bleeding can also occur due to a rupture and it will occur apart from your monthly cycle. A ruptured cyst may also lead to irregular periods, heavy periods, or lighter periods. Anytime your periods are abnormal, you should consult your doctor right away as some conditions may also be to blame.
- A ruptured cyst may also be accompanied by stomach issues such as vomiting or nausea. You may also feel weaker than you typically do. See your doctor if you ever experience pain followed by vomiting.
- Ruptured cysts may also cause changes to your typical excretory functions. In most cases, this shows up in the form of trouble emptying the bowels, or bladder or needing to urinate more often. It is also possible to feel full after eating a small amount of food or feeling swollen or bloated in your belly. It is also common to experience a low grade fever and dizziness following an ovarian cyst rupture.
Any of the above symptoms and signs can indicate an emergency, meaning that you need to see your doctor immediately. Complications can increase the risk of infection and even be life-threatening without proper treatment.
What Are the Causes of Ruptured Ovarian Cysts?
In general, larger ovarian cysts are more likely to rupture. There are multiple possible causes for this to happen.
- Pregnancy: There is an increased risk of ruptured cysts during pregnancy. Ovarian cysts spontaneously rupturing may be life-threatening, particularly if it occurs later on in pregnancy.
- Hormonal fluctuations: The menstrual cycle and hormonal fluctuations related to it are the most common reason for an ovarian cyst rupture. These functional cyst ruptures are typically harmless, not requiring any medical attention.
- Anti-coagulation therapy: Women who suffer from a deficiency of clotting factors or who are on anticoagulants have a higher risk of their ovarian cysts rupturing because of these coagulation abnormalities.
- Sexual intercourse: It is possible for a larger cyst to begin leaking or burst either during or immediately after intercourse and this is among the most common causes.
- Constipation: In some cases, the act of straining during a bowel movement may apply pressure to the cyst, causing it to rupture.
- Sudden movements during exercising, doing athletic activities, or bending down in the process of picking up objects
How Is Ovarian Cyst Rupture Diagnosed?
Before diagnosing a cyst rupture, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. Tell them if you know you have an ovarian cyst. You should also expect a physical exam, most likely including a pelvic exam.
If your doctor suspects a ruptured ovarian cyst, you may need tests to rule out other causes of the symptoms, like kidney stones, appendicitis, and pregnancy. Possible tests include:
- Blood tests to check for infection or iron deficiency
- Pregnancy tests
- Urine tests for other possible causes
- Vaginal cultures to check for infections
- CT scans to create an image of the area
How Is Ovarian Cyst Rupture Treated?
The treatment for an ovarian cyst will depend on the size of the cyst in question, your age, and whether other problems occurred. In some cases, treatment may not even be necessary. Otherwise, one of the following treatments may be recommended:
- NSAIDs like ibuprofen can reduce fever, pain, and swelling and are available over the counter. Consult your doctor if you take blood thinners.
- Prescription pain medication may also be recommended and always follow your doctor’s instructions.
- Antibiotics can fight or prevent an infection due to bacteria.
- Surgery may be required to get rid of blood or fluid caused by the ruptured cyst. Sometimes, the exterior of the cyst may also need to be surgically removed.
How Can I Prevent or Manage a Ruptured Ovarian Cyst?
- Apply heat to the site of pain to relieve mild discomfort. Use a hot water bottle or heating pad, always wrapping it to avoid direct contact with skin. Apply heat 20 minutes each hour or take a warm bath.
- Ask your doctor about a follow-up examination. You may need an ultrasound in six weeks to ensure everything is healthy. Ultrasounds may also be necessary for two or three menstrual cycles to check on how your hormones are affecting your ovaries.
- Ask your doctor about birth control pills as they can reduce the risk of cysts.
- Have a yearly pelvic exam to detect any problems early. Let your doctor know if there are changes in your menstrual cycle, including worse pain than normal.