What Are Ovarian Cysts?
Ovarian cysts are a complication of normal monthly ovulation. Every month, the ovaries grow a follicle, which releases an egg as well as producing female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone.
Sometimes these follicles continue growing instead of shrinking away to nothing when an egg is released. These ovarian cysts may cause no symptoms at all. However, in some cases they may cause abdominal discomfort, pressure, and pain during urination or intercourse.
These cysts sometimes become so swollen that they rupture, which is unfortunately common in women with PCOS. This rupture can be a small leak or a larger break. This initial rupture is usually extremely painful.
If one these cysts ruptures, fluid and sometimes blood are spilled into the abdominal cavity. In addition being very painful, there is a chance of infection and hemorrhage when a cyst ruptures.
Top Signs of a Ruptured Ovarian Cyst
A ruptured ovarian cyst is a medical emergency that requires immediate evaluation and treatment. The following thirteen signs indicate that your cyst has ruptured and that you should seek immediate medical care.
1. Pain in the Abdomen
An unruptured ovarian cyst may be uncomfortable or cause mild pain; in many cases there are no symptoms at all. A ruptured cyst, however, is much more dramatic, causing immediate, sharp pain in the lower abdomen.
This pain often occurs on the side of the body where the cyst occurred, although it may be perceived as being in the center of the abdomen. The pain will come on suddenly. Most women describe it as sharp, although some say it feels numbing or even hot.
In addition to the sharp and immediate pain of the rupture, the release of fluid or blood into the lower abdomen will irritate tissues. This can cause a large amount of dull pain throughout the lower abdomen, which may steadily worsen if there is significant fluid loss or if an infection occurs.
If a woman already has had pain from the growing cyst, she may experience the rupture as a sudden worsening or a change in the pain’s quality from dull to sharp. It is important to seek medical care because the pain may be from either a ruptured ovarian cyst, a twisting of the cyst, or any one of several emergency situations.
Abdominal pain is the most common sign of both ruptured ovarian cysts and twisted ovarian cysts. Both of these conditions can successfully diagnosed and treated with immediate medical care.
Weakness is a common sign of a ruptured ovarian cyst. The rupture of the fluid-filled cyst leaks fluid into the abdominal cavity, which can cause low blood pressure.
Low blood pressure often produces weakness because the body must struggle to pump enough oxygen to tissues because there is not enough fluid in blood vessels. The pain of a ruptured cyst also can make a person feel more weak and tired.
It is important to get help if you are feeling too weak to care for yourself or to seek medical attention, especially if you are having the next symptom in our list.
Dizziness, lightheadedness, and vertigo are all common symptoms of a ruptured ovarian cyst. The fluid or blood loss that creates weakness may cause dizziness or even fainting if it is severe enough to cause dangerously low blood pressure or hypovolemic shock.
Dizziness often occurs when the woman’s blood pressure is too low to pump enough nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood to the brain. This is a dangerous situation, both because of the low blood pressure and because of the heightened risk of falls and accidents.
In some cases, women with a ruptured cyst may be dizzy from high levels of pain or loss of sleep as well. However, dizziness requires medical care regardless of the reason.
In the case of a possible ruptured ovarian cysts, a dangerous amount of blood loss could quickly become a life threatening medical situation without immediate medical care. Internal hemorrhage is a rare but serious danger in these situations, especially in women who do not clot easily due to medication or a medical condition.
Nausea is a common symptom of a ruptured ovarian cyst for several reasons. As fluid is spilled into the abdomen, it irritates the peritoneal lining, which in turn can cause inflammation of all of the organs in the abdomen. The stomach is particularly sensitive to this kind of irritation.
In addition to being irritated and inflamed by fluid, the stomach also slows or stops digestion in times of pain or stress. This can cause an upset stomach. Abdominal pain also can cause nausea.
Nausea and severe lower abdominal pain in a woman near the time of her period are important enough signs for physicians to assume a ruptured ovarian cyst and begin testing, when these occur together. It is important to get medical care for this combination of signs and symptoms.
Vomiting is a common symptom whenever the body is in distress. Pain, fear, or sudden illness can cause the body to go into “fight or flight” mode, in which the body prepares for a crisis by slowing non-necessary functions.
A “fight or flight” reaction causes the release of the stress hormone adrenaline, which is also called epinephrine. This hormone causes digestion to slow or to cease altogether so resources can be used for the infection or other perceived danger. Because the stomach cannot effectively digest its contents, vomiting is likely.
Vomiting can become serious when it occurs along with other common signs of a ruptured cyst, such as weakness or fluid loss. A woman can easily develop dangerously low blood pressure when a cyst is leaking fluid and she cannot keep food or water down to replace it.
6. Vaginal bleeding or bloody discharge
When blood or excess fluid tinged with blood are released into the abdomen, some of this fluid may leave as vaginal bleeding or bloody discharge. This is often missed as a symptom because ruptured cysts are likely to happen around the time of a woman’s period.
For many women, this vaginal bleeding may appear to be spotting or discharge before or after a period. Other women may experience it as extra heavy menstrual flow if it happens during a normal period.
If a woman has ruptured ovarian cysts often, which is common in women with PCOS, the person may assume they have heavy or irregular periods with a great deal of pain and bloating. If a heavy or irregular period occurs with other symptoms of a ruptured cyst, this should be reported to a doctor. There is no need to live every month with the pain of rupture ovarian cysts.
A low grade fever, defined as a temperature between 98.6 and 100.4 F, is one of the more easily missed symptoms of a ruptured ovarian cyst. After all, few people take their temperature when they are suffering from intense abdominal pain.
The low grade fever seen in some women with a ruptured cyst may be caused by the pain and stress of the condition. It may also be caused by an immune response to fluid in the abdomen, or even be a sign of an infection developing.
Women who suspect they have an ovarian cyst should call or visit a health care provider if they have a fever that rises above 100.4 F. This may suggest that the fluid in their abdomen has become infected and that immediate antibiotic treatment is needed.
8. Abdominal bloating and pressure
Many ovarian cysts take up a substantial amount of space in the abdomen, which is already tightly packed with organs and other structures. A cyst will cause a feeling of pressure or fullness and at times may even cause noticeable bloating and distension.
Once the cyst has ruptured, the pressure may subside. However, the bloating and distension will likely worsen due to the presence of fluid. In addition, the irritation from the fluid and/or blood may cause even more bloating.
Many ovarian cysts rupture via a slow leak. The pressure may still be present even when signs of rupture are beginning to appear.
Because ruptured cysts usually happen around the time of a woman’s period, this bloating and distension may be mistaken for premenstrual syndrome. However, the signs of a cyst are usually more severe.
It is important to note any fullness or pressure, especially if it suddenly worsens. Ovarian cysts can sometimes lead to an internal hemorrhage, especially in women with clotting disorders or those taking an anticoagulant medication such as aspirin or warfarin.
9. Increased or excessive thirst
If you are suddenly thirstier than usual and cannot seem to get enough water, you may have a lesser known classic signof a ruptured ovarian cyst. When a cyst ruptures, fluid spills into the abdomen. Your body compensates for this loss of fluid with thirst.
It is fine to drink extra water until you are not thirsty if you happen to have this symptom. In fact, this additional fluid is important to restoring your body’s natural blood volume. However, you should call a doctor if this and other symptoms of an ovarian cyst rupture worsen or fail to resolve themselves. In some cases, excessive thirst may even be caused by serious medical problems such as diabetes or kidney disease.
10. Excessive urination
Having standing fluid in the abdomen is dangerous. Not only does it irritate tissues and organs, potentially damaging the uterus, but it also can be a large infection risk as well.
Because of this potential danger, the human body has ways of removing fluid that may accumulate. The extra fluid in the abdomen from a ruptured ovarian cyst is absorbed both by tissues and by the lymphatic system. This fluid then is funneled to the kidneys so it can be excreted as urine.
This process leads to one very annoying symptom of a ruptured ovarian cyst: increased urination. Many people assume that they are urinating more because they are thirstier and drinking more, but the two symptoms are actually not caused by each other.
11. Noticeable abdominal mass
While many people assume that a rupture means that the cyst breaks open or pops in a dramatic manner, many cysts actually rupture when a small leak forms. Because the cyst is very swollen and the leak may be slow, a palpable mass may be present on the ovaries while there are symptoms of a rupture.
When doctors perform a pelvis examination on a person with a suspected ovarian cyst, they are feeling for this mass. In addition, doctors and patients both may be able to feel a small hard mass when they push gently on the woman’s lower abdomen.
Because a mass in the abdomen can be many different things, including cancer, it is important to see a doctor if you feel or otherwise suspect a mass or cyst. It is important to rule out potentially dangerous diseases as well as the more obvious ones.
Many women who have a ruptured ovarian cyst get very pale, a condition known in the medical world as pallor. Pale skin and dark shadows under the eyes may be caused by the high levels of pain, but these also may be a sign of blood loss and even hemorrhage.
Most ruptured ovarian cysts spill mainly fluid. However, there is bleeding in some cases, especially when a hemorrhagic cyst ruptures. Very rarely, this bleeding does not stop in a timely manner on its own and emergency medical care is needed.
Even if the blood loss is not heavy enough to cause fainting, it can make a person anemic quickly. This anemia in turn can cause weakness, dizziness, or a loss of healthy color in the skin.
If pallor is combined with weakness, dizziness, or abdominal distension, it is important to get emergency medical care to prevent further blood loss. This is especially true in women who are taking blood thinners or are otherwise prone to excessive bleeding.
13. Shoulder pain
Shoulder pain is a little known but relatively common sign of a ruptured ovarian cyst. This pain may occur on either shoulder or even on both, usually on the back of the shoulder blade.
This phenomenon is known as referred pain, when the brain perceives pain as being located in a different region that it really is. This often occurs in nerves that enter the spinal cord at the same level of the spine. It is difficult for the brain to determine exactly which nerves are sending pain impulses and sometimes the brain ‘guesses’ wrong.
Referred pain is actually common for a variety of medical conditions. For example, people who are having heard attacks often have pain in their shoulder and arm.
One way to tell referred shoulder pain from other types of pain is that it does not go away or get worse when you move your shoulder or arm. This is because the pain is not actually caused by any kind of shoulder problem but rather by a ruptured ovarian cyst.
Bonus: 5 Tips To Treat A Ruptured Ovarian Cyst
A ruptured ovarian cyst requires medical treatment. It’s important to make sure that no complications such as infection are occurring.
However, there are a few things that you can do to make ruptured ovarian cysts more comfortable until you have completely healed. Be sure to discuss these and any other remedies with your doctor.
1. Take evening primrose oil.
Evening primrose oil has several benefits for women with a ruptured ovarian cyst. It is found in capsules in the supplement section of most stores.
Most importantly, evening primrose oil is full of gamma-linolenic acid, which is helpful for the hormonal imbalances that occur after a ruptured cyst. Cysts usually release female hormones along with fluid, which can cause unpleasant symptoms until hormone levels even out.
In addition, evening primrose oil is a healthy fat. This gives your body the energy and nutrients that it needs to heal. This supplement is safe and has no side effects, so it is a great way to relieve some of the discomfort associated with a ruptured ovarian cyst.
2. Eat blackstrap molasses.
Many women become weak or anemic after a ruptured ovarian cyst. Blackstrap molasses is an old time remedy for this which has been found by modern scientists to be extremely effective.
Blackstrap molasses is full of iron and other nutrients that help your body to heal and to build up healthy hemoglobin levels in the blood. You can enjoy this kind of molasses in molasses cookies, gingerbread, and a variety of other tasty and healthy treats.
3. Add apple cider vinegar to your diet.
Recent studies suggest that apple cider vinegar can actually shrink ovarian cysts. This may help you to recover faster even after your cyst has ruptured.
Some researchers believe that the high potassium content of apple cider vinegar is the reason it helps to shrink ovarian cysts. Apple cider vinegar also may help to shrink future ovarian cysts before they rupture, preventing this painful condition.
You do not have to drink straight vinegar to get the benefits of apple cider vinegar. Try using it instead of lemon juice or other acids in cooking, or adding a tablespoon each of the apple cider vinegar and honey to a large glass of water.
Some medical scientists believe that apple cider vinegar may help to prevent cysts as well.
4. Rest and relax.
It is very important not to overexert yourself after a ruptured ovarian cyst. Take a few days off of work and get a lot of rest to keep your body and your immune system strong.
Your doctor will probably recommend that you avoid heavy lifting or exertion until you have completely recovered. In addition, it is important not to have sexual intercourse until you have been given medical clearance, as this will be painful and also increase your chances of infection.
It will take a while for your body to reach homeostasis after the fluid loss and inflammation of a ruptured cyst. You should take it easy for the amount of time that your doctor recommends even if you are feeling better much sooner.
5. Get on daily oral contraceptives.
Once the crisis of a ruptured ovarian cyst has passed, you should consider starting oral contraceptives. These drugs will prevent ovulation and thus keep other cysts from occurring.
Oral contraceptives can be stopped if you decide later that you want to conceive. In addition, birth control pills can actually preserve the fertility of a woman with PCOS by keeping scar tissue from forming on your ovaries with repeated large cysts.
If you seek medical care for signs of a ruptured ovarian cyst, doctors will be able to help in a variety of ways. They will rule out other potential problems, look at the cysts via ultrasound or CT scan, and offer pain relief. In addition, they can manage some of the other distressing symptoms and monitor you for complications. If necessary, they may surgically remove the cyst to stop bleeding or fluid loss.
Ruptured ovarian cysts are common in women and most especially so in women who have PCOS. Learning to identify ruptured ovarian cysts, treat the pain effectively, and know when to seek medical care is important to managing polycystic ovarian syndrome.