A ruptured ovarian cyst, then, is a fluid-filled, typically benign (non-cancerous) mass on an ovary that has broken open. “In most cases, cysts are harmless and go away on their own,” Pari Ghodsi, M.D.4, board-certified ob-gyn and fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, tells SELF. “In other cases, they may cause problems and need treatment.”
Are there any risk factors that increase your chances of an ovarian cyst?
Ovarian cysts can develop in a person at any age, but they’re most common during a person’s reproductive years, typically between puberty and menopause. There are also a few risk factors that can make ovarian cysts more prone to developing5. This includes:
- Infertility treatment
- Hormone therapy
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
What happens when an ovarian cyst bursts?
Ovarian cysts often don’t cause any trouble at all, but they can if they rupture or don’t stop growing. Most cysts are small and don’t cause symptoms, according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health. But if they grow large enough, they can cause pain in your lower abdomen on the side of the cyst, along with bloating or a sense of pressure.
Dermoid cysts and cystadenomas in particular can become pretty large, the Mayo Clinic says, which, in addition to causing the above symptoms, can cause the ovary to shift from its usual position, increasing the chances it will twist on itself in a painful issue known as an ovarian torsion6. This can lead to nausea and vomiting, along with pain.
And if your ovarian cyst actually bursts, the pain can definitely make you notice as it releases fluid into your body. Although you might be unaware when this happens, sometimes it can cause pain because it irritates the lining of your abdomen, Stephanie V. Blank, M.D.7, director of women’s health at Mount Sinai Downtown Chelsea and professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, tells SELF.
What causes ovarian cysts and ruptures?
As we mentioned, most ovarian cysts (as in, those functional ones) develop as a result of your menstrual cycle, the Mayo Clinic says. Other types of cysts are much less common. And since certain ovarian cysts, like cystadenomas and endometriomas, are more likely to become large, that can also make them more likely to rupture.
Ovarian cysts can rupture randomly, or they can break open due to intense physical activity like sex. “We often see someone come to the ER at night with terrible pain that came on all of a sudden during intercourse from a ruptured ovarian cyst,” Dr. Dweck says.
What does it feel like to have an ovarian cyst burst?
When an ovarian cyst ruptures, the fluid inside of it ends up in your pelvic cavity, where it’s usually reabsorbed over time, explains Jason James, M.D.8, medical director at Miami’s FemCare Ob-Gyn. If you’re lucky, as we mentioned, you might not even feel a cyst as it bursts. For some people, though, ovarian cyst pain can be very sudden, scary, and excruciating.
Per the Mayo Clinic, signs of a ruptured ovarian cyst include:
- Dull or sharp pain on one side of your lower abdomen
- A feeling of fullness or heaviness in your abdomen
- Needing to urinate more often
- Pain that comes with a fever
- Pain accompanied by vomiting
- Pain during or after sex
- Referred shoulder pain
- Lightheadedness or weakness
- Breathing at a rapid rate
- Chilly, clammy skin
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding