When visiting your doctor for annual exams, they may ask about your period or do a pelvic exam, but this is also a time to discuss symptoms you are experiencing that could be a sign of ovarian cysts.
"Most ovarian cysts are harmless, exhibit no symptoms, and go away on their own. However, some women can experience symptoms, particularly with larger cysts," said Dr. Nita Landry, an ob-gyn and The Doctors cohost.
Part of what makes cysts sometimes difficult to identify is that some of us have no symptoms. "Women with ovarian cysts can have no symptoms, pain resembling a light pressure, or heaviness on one side or both sides of their lower abdomen, whichever side(s) the cysts are on," said Dr. Sophia Yen, an MD, MPH, and CEO of Pandiahealth.com, a subscription birth control delivery company. "Because the ovaries are located in the lower abs, this means you will most likely feel pain below your belly button and pelvis."
But some of us do feel that pain, and it can be intense. "Some cysts can cause dull or sharp pelvic pain on either side of the abdomen, depending on where the cyst is," Dr. Landry said. Lower-back pain can also be a symptom of a large ovarian cyst.
Are you feeling bloated? It may not just be a time-of-the-month thing. "When a cyst is large enough, it can take up space in the abdomen and push on surrounding organs. This can cause abdominal swelling or bloating," Dr. Landry said.
What looks like a stomach issue can be something else. "Due to the size of the cyst, some women can also experience indigestion, urgency in urination, difficulty in fully emptying the bladder, or urge to defecate," Dr. Landry said.
Symptoms of a Burst Cyst
Sometimes these cysts burst, and that's when seeing the doctor becomes an immediate need. "Not all burst cysts exhibit symptoms, but if you are experiencing severe pelvic pain accompanied by fever, dizziness, and rapid breathing, you should seek immediate medical attention," Dr. Landry said.
"In some instances, your doctor might do periodic pelvic ultrasounds to keep an eye on your ovarian cyst," Dr. Landry said. "Rarely, a cyst may be malignant. Surgery might be recommended if your cyst is very large, causes symptoms, or is suspicious for cancer."