It is alarming how often doctors miss the signs of ovarian cysts. The symptoms of cysts on ovaries are quite straightforward, with things like pelvic pain and bloating of the abdomen leading the charge. And so when doctors miss these signs over the course of months, and sometimes even years, you are left scratching your head and wondering where their brains were when they were doing the diagnosis.
Take the case of the 22 year old English woman who went from doctor to doctor, trying to find a doctor who could give her answers. Her symptoms? Abdominal pain and a weird feeling of fullness in the abdominal region – classic ovarian cyst symptoms.
It’s obesity, they said
And guess what was the first thing that her doctors jumped to? Obesity. They didn’t even bother to perform a simple ultrasound. They just went for it: you are fat, and that is what is to blame for the weird feeling in your abdomen.
It’s likely kidney stones, another one said
Lucky for her, she wasn’t satisfied with this answer. And so she resumed her doctor-bouncing escapades until she landed on one who had a brilliant idea. The doctor believed that kidney stones were to blame for all her troubles. He was dead wrong.
However, while this doctor’s hunch was a total miss, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
A simple ultrasound is all it took
To check for the kidney stones, the doctors performed an ultrasound scan. And that’s when they saw it.
A large growing ovarian cyst was right there, in her reproductive system. It was so huge that it literally filled her abdominal cavity. That was the cause of all her discomfort and all her pain. And what’s worse is that while doctors kept dismissing the woman’s symptoms as mere side effects of obesity, this ovarian cyst kept growing. It kept becoming larger and larger while the woman was being bounced around from doctor to doctor.
Cancerous ovarian cyst worry
Given that some ovarian cysts can be cancerous, the doctors who discovered it were worried. And so they did tests just to rule out ovarian cancer, something that might have complicated the ovarian cyst treatment process.
They did the tests. And luckily, her ovarian cyst was benign – noncancerous. Can you imagine how sad it would have been if it had been cancerous, and if the cancer had developed and spread while her doctors were still aiming for misses or dismissing what she felt?
Ovarian cyst symptoms like ovarian pain, difficulty getting pregnant and abnormal vaginal bleeding are well known. They are nothing super-unusual as they affect parts of the female reproductive system. Most people know about them. And explaining why they are caused by ovarian cysts is almost obvious.
But there are symptoms of ovarian cysts that are rare and so unusual that when first experienced, it is almost impossible to imagine that cysts on ovaries might be to blame. Even doctors sometimes get it wrong when trying to pinpoint the cause of these symptoms. Here are some of the shocking ovarian cyst symptoms that real-life women have experienced.
The difficulty breathing ovarian cyst symptom
The respiratory system seems so far removed from the ovaries, and the female reproductive system in general, that thinking that a cyst can affect it is not the most obvious thing that comes to mind. Question is, is any part of the body really far enough not to be affected by an intruding ovarian cyst? A 56 year-old woman found out the answer to that question.
She first suspected that something was wrong when out of the blue, she started gaining weight. There weren’t any of the common ovarian cyst symptoms to tip her off. There was no nausea, pelvic pain or abnormal vaginal bleeding. Just an increasing waistline. And faster-than-normal breathing.
When she went to the doctor, she was surprised to learn that a 90-pound ovarian cyst was to blame for the abnormal weight gain. But what was more shocking was what the cyst had done to her diaphragm. It was so large that it had literally pushed against her diaphragm. This meant only one thing – that she couldn’t inhale and exhale as efficiently and as comfortably as she should have given the role that the diaphragm plays in the breath-in – breath-out process. That was why she had the faster-than-normal breathing.
The she’s insane ovarian cyst symptom
This is one of the few cases in which an ovarian growth affected the functioning of someone’s brain – literally.
According to Monsters Inside Me, it was a several-week affair of a mother desperately watching as her daughter suffered intense hallucinations. Doctors who attended to her couldn’t seem to find out exactly what was wrong with her. The physicians at the psychiatric hospital couldn’t wrap their brains around the mystery that was the girl who was in the intensive care unit. And more baffling was the fact that after a series of tests, the results weren’t consistent with those of a psychiatric case.
It was only later on that it was discovered that ovarian cysts were to blame for what appeared to be a psychiatric case – dermoid ovarian cysts to be exact. How? Well, the cysts, also known as ovarian teratomas, developed brain cells. This triggered an immune response, and the antibodies that were released not only attacked the unwanted brain cells in the ovarian cyst, but also attacked her brain. That is what triggered the hallucinations. Luckily, she had a doctor who could figure it out on time.
Cysts on ovaries have a wide range of effects on the human body. Some of these effects have something to do with the effect that that their presence has on the hormonal balance of a woman’s body. Others have to do with the effect of that their increase in size has on organs and tissues that are next to the ovaries.
These effects usually build up to a handsome list of ovarian cyst symptoms. Question is, does lack of appetite fall into any of the categories of symptoms of ovarian cysts?
Nausea and vomiting – symptoms of ovarian cysts
Nausea and vomiting is a common ovarian cyst symptom. It is one of those symptoms that ovarian cysts have in common with pregnancy, and one of the reasons why some women have mistaken the presence of cysts with pregnancy.
Question is, how does the growth of cysts in your ovaries end up affecting your appetite?
Ovarian cysts usually have a notable effect on the hormonal balance in the body. This may be due to the cysts producing different types of hormones or the cysts affecting the functioning of the ovaries – an important hormonal production center in the body.
An increase in some of these hormones can induce nausea and vomiting, just like at the onset of pregnancy. As a result, ingesting food becomes an unattractive offer, something that may get worse as time goes by.
Large cysts and the contents of your stomach
There are also those rare cases where ovarian cysts can affect the functioning of your reproductive system. Such cases are usually characterized by cysts that grow so large to such an extent that they start pressing against adjacent organs.
The stomach is one of the organs unlucky enough to be situated near the ovaries. It can thus fall victim to the ambitions of a growing cyst.
A case that comes to mind is the case involving a 57 year old woman who had a 90 pound cyst in her ovaries. According to the doctor who treated her, her cyst had grown so large that it had literally squished the contents of her stomach.
Now, that is pretty nasty. It is something that not only affects the digestion process, but one which also the stomach’s capacity to hold food. And while this is an extreme case, it is easy to see why having a cyst in your ovaries can make you feel full after having a light meal.
Early detection makes treatment of ovarian cysts easier. For this reason, it is important that you see a doctor as soon as you notice any of the common symptoms of ovarian cysts. Symptoms like lack of appetite, occasional mild abdominal pains, changes in your menstrual cycle and an increase in the need to urinate; are reliable tell-tale signs of the presence of ovarian cysts in your ovaries and once they start to show, you should consider a medical check up.
There are however symptoms that give you no option. Ones which when they start to show are a sign of serious ovarian cysts complications. And which if ignored, however small the period, can lead to fatalities. With these symptoms, it’s not just advisable that you see a doctor. It’s a must. And more importantly, you need to do so immediately.
This is because these ovarian cysts symptoms are a sign that something has gone horribly wrong. That the cyst in your ovaries has ruptured, has twisted or has led to a complication that is having an unbearable effect on the functioning of your body. These are symptoms of ovarian cysts that fall under the you-need-to-see-a-doctor-right-now category and they shouldn’t be ignored. Not even for a second.
Ovarian cyst rupture is a serious complication mainly because of the effect that the rupture can have on the ovaries. And given that the fluid that is released after the rupture can cause infections of the female reproductive system, it is one ovarian cyst complication that should never be ignored. (There is also the loss of blood that the cyst burst can cause).
As for twisting of the ovarian cyst, a potentially fatal complication that restricts blood flow to the ovaries, it can lead to death of ovarian tissues. And if that happens, it will not only impact your fertility but the presence of dead ovaries in your body may lead to unimaginable complications.
Mayo Clinic lists the following 7 symptoms as reliable signs that things with the cysts in your ovaries have gotten out of control.
1.Severe sharp pain
The pain may be continuous or intermittent and is usually a symptom of a serious complication. It may a sign of ovarian cyst rupture or ovarian torsion. It may also be a sign that the cyst in your ovaries has become so large that it is seriously pressing against the nerves in your ovaries and those in surrounding tissues and organs.
It’s a symptom that is indicative of a serious complication. More likely a sign of an ovarian cyst induced infection.
If you start feeling dizzy, especially if the dizziness comes with extreme abdominal or back pain, you need to see a doctor immediately. It may be a sign that you have lost a lot of blood because of an ovarian cyst complication. Or that you have an infection.
In this case, this symptom arose because the cyst had grown so large that it had pressed against the woman’s diaphragm. If you are experiencing this symptom, it may therefore be as a result of having an abnormally sized cyst that needs to be removed. Or you may be experiencing the effects of a serious ovarian cyst complication.
5.Nausea and vomiting
Especially when it is accompanied with excruciating pain or any of the above symptoms
This happens when infections, likely caused by a cyst burst, get out of control. By the time shock sets in, you are already swimming in super-dangerous waters.
Ovarian cysts do more than cause pain and discomfort. They can also cause changes in your body. Some of the changes that they cause are easily visible. Some are not. Some can occur at the same time while others occur on their own.
It’s true that there are women with cysts in their ovaries who never experience any of these changes. However, it pays to know about these ovarian cyst symptoms as it can come in handy in helping in the early detection of ovarian cysts. This will eventually help to reduce the risks of ovarian cyst complications.
Causes of ovarian cyst induced changes
Most of the changes that ovarian cysts cause have to do with the increasing size of a cyst in a woman’s body, where the cyst grows so large that it pushes against tissues and adjacent organs to such an extent that the effect of this pushing and shoving becomes visible.
However, some of the changes caused by ovarian cysts have to do with their effect on the hormonal balance in a woman’s body. For example, Hopkins Medicine blames the unusual hair growth symptom of ovarian cysts on the increased production of masculinizing hormones -triggered by ovarian cysts.
1. Increase in urination frequency
This is a symptom of ovarian cysts that occurs when a large cyst presses against the bladder. It has two effects: it reduces the holding capacity of the bladder and also makes it impossible for one to completely empty her bladder.
By reducing the bladder’s capacity, ovarian cysts guarantee that your bladder will fill up quickly. And by inhibiting the bladder-emptying process, it further accelerates the bladder-filling process since even after going to the loo, there will always be less space left in your bladder. All this adds up to a continuous need to empty your bladder at smaller and smaller intervals. The growth of the cyst only makes things worse.
2. Excessive bleeding during menstruation
Women with ovarian cysts sometimes experience heavier-than-normal bleeding during their periods. And sometimes, it’s not just heavier. The bleeding sometimes goes on for a longer period than what one is used to.
Since the menstrual cycle is a process that is largely controlled by hormones, and since hormones produced by the ovaries play a significant process in controlling this process, these changes can be blamed on the hormonal-imbalance effect that ovarian cysts have on the female body
3. Irregular bleeding
Some women experience changes in the timing department of their menstrual cycles. Some experience their periods earlier while for others, their periods take longer than necessary. There are also times when ovarian cysts can cause unexpected light vaginal spotting. This can be very frustrating because you may never know when the bleeding will start.
4. Unexplained weight gain
This is a symptom of ovarian cysts that may be blamed on the hormonal imbalance that comes with the onset of ovarian cysts. However, there are cases where the increase in weight is caused by the sheer weight of the cystic mass growing in the ovaries. Cases of extremely large cysts are a good example.
5. Difficulty getting pregnant
Normally, ovarian cysts don’t interfere with a woman’s ability to get pregnant. The growth of the cyst and the onset of ovarian cyst complications can however make conception difficult. This is so especially in cases where ovarian torsion and ovarian cyst rupture occur.
Ovarian torsion is a condition that is characterized by the twisting of ovarian cysts. This twisting can restrict blood supply to the ovaries, something that may lead to death of ovarian tissues. If this condition leads to the destruction of an ovary, a woman will only have one ovary to rely on. This can reduce the chances of conception.
Ovarian cyst rupture on the other hand has several effects. In the case of an endometrioid cyst, a cyst burst will release the contents of the cyst. This will then cause endometrial tissues to start developing on different parts of the female reproductive system. It can lead to scarring of the uterus, blockage of the fallopian tube and many other complications that can make fertilization difficult.
A cyst burst can also lead to damage of the ovaries. And even if it doesn’t do so directly, it can expose the ovaries to the risks that come with surgery, something that can lead to conception complications.
6. Painful periods
WebMD explains the why some women experience painful periods. According to an article reviewed by Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, the pain usually occurs as a result of uterine contractions. These contractions cause the uterine muscles to press against blood vessels, cutting off blood supply to some muscles. This is what causes the pain.
Now, not all women experience painful periods. But given that on ovarian cyst is an unwanted mass that takes up space in the reproductive system, it is easy to see why the effects of uterine contractions can cause more pain. With cysts taking up space, even the slightest contractions of the uterine walls can cut off blood supply to the uterine muscles. A woman who wouldn’t have experienced the pain therefore experiences it because of the “congestion” caused by ovarian cysts.
It is possible for ovarian cysts to cause permanent infertility in women. It maybe as a result of the effect of a necessary – to remove the cyst and prevent further complications – surgical procedure . It can also be as a direct consequence of ovarian cyst complications.
The rupture of an endometrioid ovarian cyst can lead to the total blockage of the fallopian tubes. It can also lead to infections that may end up causing irreparable damage to the female reproductive system. And in cases where cysts develop on both ovaries, ovarian torsion can cause the destruction of both ovaries, leading to permanent infertility.
These are extremely rare ovarian cyst complications. But that is not to say that they cannot develop.
8. Increased hair growth
The hair growth usually occurs in the face, although other parts of the body aren’t immune to this ovarian cyst symptom. As mentioned above, Hopkins Medicine attributes this change to an increase in the production of masculinizing hormones – an effect of the presence of cysts in the ovaries.
The thing about ovarian cysts is that they are usually warm and fuzzy with the female reproductive system. That is until they get large enough, burst or cause complications such as ovarian torsion and ovarian cancer. When that happens, they trigger a host of ovarian cyst symptoms that will turn your life into a living hell.
Pain is a common ovarian cyst symptom. According to the US National Library of Medicine, it is a symptom that usually occurs when either of the following things happen. It occurs when a cyst in a woman’s ovary:
c)twists or causes the fallopian tube to twist
d)gets bumped during strenuous activity like sex
e)interferes with the ovary’s blood supply
f)turns into a large cyst
Any of these things can turn a i-don’t-have-any-problems-with-you ovarian cyst into a raging nuisance. And it’s not pretty. The following are the different types of pains that such a cyst can cause.
1. Pelvic pain
This is an ovarian cyst symptom that usually manifests because of the size of the cyst – when the cyst has simply exceeded the space threshold that the female reproductive system can allow. As a result, the cyst starts competing for space with adjacent organs and tissues. As it expands, it applies pressure on tissues and muscles, stretching them and moving them out of place. This can be very painful.
Pelvic pain can also occur when any of the complications of ovarian cysts occur. Ovarian cyst rupture is usually signified by sharp pelvic pain. So is ovarian torsion and infections of the female reproductive system. It is for this reason that it is usually advisable for you to seek immediate medical attention the moment you experience sharp pelvic pain, especially if it is sudden.
2. Painful periods
Ovarian cysts can mess with your periods. And it’s not just the cycle that they can mess with. They can make your periods painful.
You can experience the pain just before the periods, when bleeding or immediately after bleeding.
Given that the development of some cysts, functional ovarian cysts, is dependent on the menstrual cycle, it is believed that the hormonal fluctuations at or around your periods can trigger ovarian cyst irritation and is to blame for the pain.
3. Pain during sexual intercourse
The pain that ovarian cysts cause during sex is the deep kind of pain. Not the “superficial” kind – like the one caused by inadequate vaginal lubrication.
Painful sexual intercourse may occur because of the penis knocking on the cyst during penetration. It can also occur if the humping and thumping, during sex, causes the ovarian cyst to rupture. No matter the cause, this pain is a reliable way of getting you off the pleasure train.
4. Pain during bowel movements
This is a symptom of ovarian cysts that usually kicks in when the cysts grow so large that they start pressing against your bowels. This then not only reduces the capacity, volume wise, of your bowels but also inhibits it’s muscles ability to relax and contract – something that is necessary for smooth bowel movement. There is also the fact that when the cysts press hard enough against your bowels, they can cause a physical barrier. All this can cause a lot of pain and may even lead to serious complications of the digestive system.
5. Pain after sexual intercourse
The presence of ovarian cysts in your ovaries can also cause pain after sex.
6. Back pain
Back pain is a common symptom of ovarian cysts. It usually occurs when the cysts become large. This pain is usually felt in the lower back region and has a tendency to manifest as a dull ache.
Normally, they don’t cause any symptoms. But when they do, they can be downright brutal. They can mess with your lifestyle. Your mood. Your self-esteem. And even your sex life. That is ovarian cysts for you.
Ovarian cysts can make sex unbearable. They can cause pain. Not the good 50-shades-of-Grey kind. They cause the hey-could-you-stop kind of arousal-extinguishing pain. And unlike conditions like vaginal dryness that cause superficial painful sex, ovarian cysts usually cause deep pelvic pain.
It may be that the additional weight of your partner puts additional pressure on the cyst and surrounding tissues, or that it causes the ovarian cyst to burst or that your partner’s penis knocks on the cyst during penetration. Whichever the cause, it’s not pretty. And not the best companion when it comes to building a healthy sex life.
2. Weight gain – the esteem-shifting symptom of ovarian cysts
Unexplained weight gain is a symptom of ovarian cysts. One that has knack of lowering a woman’s self-esteem especially in the bedroom.
The weight gain may be as a result of hormonal changes that the presence of the cysts brings about. In extreme cases, it may be due to the weight of the cyst. For most women, it doesn’t really matter. Piling on weight, especially when it is immune to all the weight loss diets you know, is no way to boost your confidence in the bedroom. It messes with your confidence and in so doing, also messes with your ability to orgasm.
3. Distended abdomen – the figure-altering symptom
While still on the subject of self-esteem, ovarian cysts have more than one way to attack. If weight gain doesn’t work, it can simply create a bulge in your abdomen. This can make you light-shy and can make the can-we-please-switch-off-the-lights excuse more appealing. All this is not good for you. And it’s definitely not good for your partner.
4. Breast tenderness –the symptom that makes arousal weird
If you find nipple stimulation a faster way to turbo-charge your arousal, ovarian cysts can ruin that for you. This is because they can cause breast tenderness – a pregnancy-like symptom of ovarian cysts.
It will feel weird when your partner touches your nipples. And if playful biting is your thing, it won’t feel as arousing as before. And just like that, ovarian cysts can destroy your pleasure buttons.
5. Ovarian cyst treatment scars and body image
There are times when ovarian cysts become so large that removal through surgery is inescapable. There are also times when serious complications like ovarian cancer give you no choice in the matter.
While all this may be for a good cause, your health, it can end up leaving your body with permanent scars. These may make you shy or uncomfortable in intimate situations. And it may take some adjusting for you to get used to. But till you do, all the self consciousness that comes with the scars can make it hard for you to reach your potential – so far as sexual satisfaction goes.
6. Ovarian cyst symptoms that simply take you off the sex mood train
Ever tried getting into your sexual element when having back pains? Or enjoying a kiss when experiencing bouts of nausea and vomiting spells? Or when experiencing sharp pelvic pains? Or when you are sure that you can experience bleeding at any time? You can imagine how hard it can be. Or how much of a nightmare trying to pleasure, or receive pleasure, can be for a woman with cysts in her ovaries.
Dyspareunia is the medical term used to describe this condition. And there is no better dampener of arousal like pain – be it mild pain, sharp pain, continuous pain or intermittent pain. Sadly, it is a common condition. 3 out of 4 women have it, so says the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Question is: can ovarian cysts cause painful sex?
Even though it is not the most common symptom of ovarian cysts, pain during sex can be caused by cystic growths. You ask how? Let’s dig into it.
Your pelvic/ abdominal region is crowded
Your pelvic and lower abdominal region is crowded as hell. You have the digestive system, the reproductive system and a couple of other organs fighting for space in this area. Adding a solid mass, unwanted mark you, into this already-crowded space is bound to cause a lot of problems.
Ovarian cysts simply intrude. They are not a couple of planned-for tissues or organs. They develop and grow because something didn’t go as planned. And to make it worse, they try to compete for space with other organs and tissues in your body.
Pressure, ovarian cysts and pain during sexual intercourse
The fact that ovarian cysts develop in an already-crowded area is bad enough. This, on its own, can cause pelvic pain because the cysts try to push tissues and organs out of their place and sometimes even end up twisting them. But adding pressure to an area that is already under strain? That is bound to make a bad situation worse.
But that is exactly what sex does. Sexual intercourse is a strenuous activity. Add to this the fact that some sexual positions, like the missionary position, allow your partner to put weight on your abdominal/ pelvic region and you have the perfect recipe for pelvic/abdominal pain. This is one of the main reasons why having ovarian cysts can cause pain during sexual intercourse.
Sometimes though, it has nothing to do with pressure. The cyst, when it transforms into a large cyst, can take up so much space that even the slightest penetration can lead to the penis touching it. This can cause irritation. It can even trigger an ovarian cyst rupture, something that may lead to sharp pelvic/ abdominal pains.
Hormonal imbalance, ovarian cysts and painful sex
Ovarian cysts can sometimes mess with your hormonal balance. It may be that their presence messes up with the functioning of your ovaries, or that you have ovarian cysts that have hormone-producing capabilities. Whichever the case, this can interfere with your body’s sex chemistry. It can reduce your vagina’s lubrication system, among other things, and this can cause pain during sex. (Hormonal changes are one of the leading causes of pain during sex).
Some ovarian cyst symptoms make sex unbearable
Symptoms such as breast tenderness can mess up your arousal process. Especially if you are big on breast/areola stimulation. The biting and touching won’t be as good of a turn-on as you would like. This can be an inconvenient roadblock on the way to mount orgasm. So can the feeling-like-nodules-under-the-skin ovarian cyst symptom.
When they grow into large cysts, ovarian cysts usually become unfriendly. This has to do with the fact that their size makes it almost impossible for peaceful coexistence with various parts of the female reproductive system. Most ovarian cyst symptoms usually manifest because of this.
Pelvic pain is a symptom of ovarian cysts that most women with cysts in their ovaries complain about. However, not all women experience it. And even those that experience this symptom usually experience it in different ways. This can make it confusing when trying to determine whether or not what you are experiencing is a symptom of ovarian cysts or a sign of a totally unrelated medical condition.
The US National Library of Medicine is clear on why ovarian cysts cause pain. It lists 6 scenarios under which cysts in an ovary may cause pelvic pain. A cyst can cause pain if it:
Interferes with the blood supply to the ovary
Is bumped during sexual intercourse
Is twisted or causes twisting (torsion) of the Fallopian tube
Pelvic pain may occur before or during your menstrual periods
Ovarian cysts grow in or on ovaries, which are one of the most important hormonal production centers in the body. They specialize in producing menstrual-cycle related hormones. The mere presence of the cysts is bound to interfere with this process, leading to discomfort.
There is also the fact that the growth/development of some ovarian cysts, functional cysts, usually depends on the menstrual cycle. The hormonal fluctuations immediately before or during your menstrual periods may therefore be to blame for irritation of the cysts. This may be what is triggering the pelvic pain.
Pelvic pain may occur during or after sex
Sex is a strenuous activity.
During sex, it is possible to exert pressure on the area around the cyst. This may be as a result of the weight of your partner, especially if you are having sexual intercourse using the missionary position. It may also be because of the movement that happens during sex. Any pressure applied to the area can cause the cyst to press against tissues or organs, something that may cause pelvic pain.
Types of pelvic pains caused by ovarian cysts
The way one woman experiences the symptoms of ovarian cysts is usually different from the way another woman experiences them. It all depends on genetics, the type of cyst, its size and the lifestyle that a person leads.
Pelvic pain is no exception. In some women, the pain is intermittent while in others, it is continuous. Some women experience it as a dull heavy sensation while others experience it as a sharp and sudden pain that starts and then stops.
Pelvic pain caused by ovarian cyst complications
By the time ovarian cysts start causing pain, things are usually out of the norm. This is because cysts on ovaries don’t usually cause any symptoms. They appear and disappear, in most cases, without the affected woman knowing of their presence. Any pain they cause is therefore a clear message that you need to pay a visit to a doctor.
However, when the pelvic pain is sharp and sudden, you have no choice. You need immediate medical attention. This is because this type of pain is a common indication of ovarian cyst complications such as ovarian cyst rupture, ovarian torsion and infections that occur when a cyst bursts.