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Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can develop anywhere in the body. Ovarian cyst symptoms don’t affect all women who develop cysts on ovaries, and ovarian cysts can clear up without treatment. But for some women, ovarian cyst symptoms can lead to potentially serious complications.
The main ovarian cyst symptoms include pelvic pain that may spread to cause lower back pain, and pain in your thighs. The pain may be more noticeable just before your menstrual period is due; you also may experience it during intercourse or during a bowel movement. Other ovarian cyst symptoms include a feeling of fullness and pressure in your lower abdomen, and the urge to urinate more often (as well as feeling as if you haven’t fully emptied your bladder).
It is possible for ovarian cysts to rupture. In many women, this causes only mild discomfort that can be managed with painkillers. But it also is possible for the rupture to cause severe ovarian cyst pain and internal bleeding. If you experience sudden, severe pelvic pain and have been diagnosed with ovarian cysts, contact your doctor immediately, or go to your local emergency department.
Types of Ovarian Cysts
Cysts on ovaries come in various types:
- Follicle cysts or follicular cysts: These develop when the follicle in which an egg grows each month doesn’t burst to release the egg. These unburst follicles can form cysts that usually go away after a few months.
- Corpus luteum cyst: These form when the follicle burst and releases its egg, but the empty follicle then seals up again and forms a cyst, instead of shrinking. These types of cysts on ovaries can bleed, and cause pain. If they grow large enough, they can shift the ovary out of its normal position, and cause it to twist (a painful condition called ovarian torsion).
- Endometrioma: These cysts occur in women with a condition called endometriosis, in which the endometrial tissue that lines the uterus grows outside the uterus.
- Dermoid cysts: These cysts are present from birth, and are formed of the same cells that develop into skin, hair, teeth, and fat.
- Cystadenoma: These cysts on ovaries can grow to a large size, and potentially lead to ovarian torsion, or adnexal torsion, which can cause acute lower abdominal pain. (According to Merck Manual, this condition—a “twisting of the ovary and sometimes the fallopian tube, cutting off the blood supply of these organs”—requires surgery to untwist or even remove the affected ovary.)
When Cysts Develop
Cysts on ovaries are most likely to affect pre-menopausal women, and are usually benign. However, they can signal a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome, which can affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant. (If you also have infrequent menstrual periods, and hair growth on your face, chest, back and elsewhere, you may have this condition, and should consult your doctor.)
If you’re an older woman with ovarian cysts, they are thought to raise the risk for ovarian cancer. Cysts that contain solid matter as well as or instead of fluid, are more likely to be cancerous.