Many reproductive health issues are not talked about as often and openly as they should be, and this includes ruptured cysts. Though you've probably heard this common health problem mentioned in passing, understanding the symptoms of ruptured ovarian cysts — and knowing what to do if you suspect you have one — can help you keep from freaking out, and feel better prepared.
In a Instagram post that is sure to make anyone with ovaries *cringe*, actor Kate Beckinsale revealed she recently went to the hospital for a ruptured ovarian cyst. But, before getting into that, it's important to understand what a cyst is in the first place: "Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that present in either ovary. When a woman ovulates monthly, an oocyte (egg) is released from the ovary. At times, the remaining structure may fill with fluid which could result in a simple cyst," Dr. Beth McAvey, a board certified reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist who is a Glow program partner physician, tells Bustle.
Dr. McAvey explains that, in addition to simple cysts, there are several other kinds of ovarian cysts that can form, including dermoid cysts (which are filled with hair, fat, and bodily tissue), as well as cysts caused by endometrial tissue. Some people — like those who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) — may have multiple cysts on their ovaries at once, and typically can take contraceptives to control the symptoms associated with this health issue.
As intimidating as an ovarian cysts sound, they are pretty much a normal part of the reproductive health cycle. In fact, the Office On Women’s Health reported that most people who ovulate form a cyst on one of their ovaries each month. "Simple cysts typically resolve on their own in a few weeks without any symptoms [...] Simple cysts, however, could rupture," McAvey says.
There are several things that could cause an ovarian cyst to rupture. McAvey explains that sexual intercourse and sudden or abrupt movements during exercise, are thought to be some of the most common reasons for ruptured cysts. Furthermore, fertility specialist Dr. Gavin Sacks explained on his website that bodily trauma, pregnancy, and hormonal changes may also lead to a cyst rupturing. However, you may experience no warning signs before a cyst ruptures, and you may not be able to pinpoint an exact reason when it does.
The symptoms of a ruptured cyst often vary in intensity and severity. "A ruptured ovarian simple cyst presents with pelvic pain, either sharp or dull, and it may be localized to the side of the ovarian cyst. Patients may also report abdominal bloating or 'fullness,' and sometimes leg or back pain," says Dr. McAvey. "If an ovarian cyst does rupture, patients may feel nauseated or dizzy, and generally not well."
Luckily, according to Verywell Health, many ruptured cysts are painless, or cause mild abdominal discomfort that passes soon after the cyst ruptures. However, Dr. McAvey says if you pain and symptoms persists, even when taking over-the-counter pain medications, it's a good idea to seek medical attention ASAP. As John Hopkins Medicine noted, possible — but serious — complications of a ruptured cyst can include infection, extensive bleeding, and blood clots.
If you do go to the hospital, your doctor may opt for different treatments depending on what's going on. "Typically an examination and ultrasound will be performed. Rarely, a ruptured ovarian cyst will result in internal bleeding. However, if this occurred, observation would be required in the hospital setting," McAvey explains. "The majority of times, the bleeding will subside on its own in a few hours. In rare instances, a surgery (typically laparoscopy) may be performed to evaluate the cyst and stop the bleeding."
A good general rule of thumb is to call your OB/GYN or physician if you suspect you have an ovarian cyst that has ruptured (or if you think anything else is amiss). There's no denying ruptured cysts can be scary and painful, but knowing what to do when you have one makes a big difference.