Ovarian cysts are common, with approximately one in 10 women in the UK requiring surgery to remove them. The fluid-filled sacs develop on the ovaries, and most of the time they heal by themselves without the need for treatment.
While most ovarian cysts will clear up by themselves, there are various risk factors you need to be aware of. Here, we look at the main risks of ovarian cysts and how to tell when you need to seek medical help.
What are the risks of ovarian cysts?
Most of the time, ovarian cysts aren’t a serious issue. You will have no, or minimal symptoms, and they will naturally clear up in time. However, there is a risk they could be an indicator of another issue, and they may cause complications if left untreated. Let’s look at some of the common risks of ovarian cysts to consider…
Ovarian cyst infections
One of the more serious risks of ovarian cysts is infection. If you have a pelvic infection, cysts can develop as a result, posing a significant risk if they rupture. A ruptured infected cyst can potentially lead to sepsis, which is a life-threatening immune response.
Women who have been diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease are at a greater risk of developing ovarian cyst infections. Antibiotic treatment is provided to eliminate the infection, or hospital treatment may be required to drain the cysts.
Ovarian cysts are common in the first trimester of pregnancy. They will usually clear up by the second trimester, and they are there to produce hormones that help to continue the pregnancy.
If you are experiencing an Ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilised egg has attached itself to the outside of the uterus, it can trigger the development of cysts. These types of cysts will need to be treated with either medication or surgery as they will worsen as the pregnancy progresses.
Endometriosis causes the tissue lining to grow outside of the uterus. If the tissue grows in the ovaries, it can lead to the growth of cysts known as endometrioma. These types of cysts can grow larger as they fill up with blood.
If the cysts rupture, it can cause internal bleeding, so they do typically need to be removed. Endometrioma may need to be removed via surgery.
How to tell if you have a burst ovarian cyst
Although it sounds incredibly painful, not everyone will feel a burst ovarian cyst. Most women do feel some level of pain as the cyst bursts, followed by discomfort for a few days afterwards. Some of the most common symptoms to look out for include:
- Vaginal bleeding/spotting
- A sudden sharp pain within the lower abdomen or back
- Abdominal bloating
If you experience a fever, severe nausea and vomiting, faintness, or heavy vaginal bleeding, you should seek immediate medical help.
In most cases, ovarian cysts can be treated with over-the-counter medications. However, it is best to undergo a check-up to determine the cause of the cyst, especially if you do suffer with endometriosis.