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Ovarian Cysts (cont.)

What are the signs and symptoms of ovarian cysts?

Usually ovarian cysts do not produce symptoms, and are found during a routine physical exam. They also may be seen as an incidental finding on an ultrasound performed for other reasons. However, symptoms can be present, especially with large cysts or ruptured cysts. These are variable and may include:

  • Pain with sexual intercourse, especially with deep penetration
  •  Lower abdominal or pelvic pain. This may be intermittent, or can be severe, sudden, and sharp
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • A feeling of lower abdominal or pelvic pressure or fullness
  • Chronic pelvic pain or low back pain throughout the menstrual cycle
  • Pelvic pain following exercise or vigorous activity
  • Pain or pressure with urination or bowel movement
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Vaginal pain or spotty bleeding from the vagina
  • Infertility
  • Problems having bowel movements
  • Feeling pressure to have a bowel movement
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Abdominal distension
  • Bloating
  • Feeling of abdominal fullness
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Feeling full early when eating
  • Problems with the control of urination

A ruptured ovarian cyst typically causes severe pain that comes on suddenly. This most commonly occurs in the mid-menstrual cycle and often happens following sexual intercourse or exercise.

What do ovarian cysts look like (pictures)?

On an ultrasound image, ovarian cysts may resemble bubbles. The cyst usually contains only fluid, and it is surrounded by a very thin wall. This appearance on ultrasound identifies what is called a simple cyst. If a follicle fails to rupture and release an egg, the fluid remains and can form a cyst in the ovary. This usually affects one of the ovaries. Small cysts (smaller than one-half inch) may be present in a normal ovary while follicles are being formed.

An ovary containing small cysts on endovaginal ultrasound (looks similar to a chocolate chip cookie).
An ovary containing small cysts on endovaginal ultrasound (looks similar to a chocolate chip cookie). Click to view larger image.

An ultrasound image of a functional ovarian cyst. The round, dark, bubblelike structure is a cyst present on the ovary.
An ultrasound image of a functional ovarian cyst. The round, dark, bubble-like structure is a cyst present on the ovary. Click to view larger image.

How big is an ovarian cyst(s)?

The size of ovarian cysts is variable, ranging from less than one inch up to 4 inches. Uncommonly, ovarian cysts can form extremely large masses that measure 12 inches or more in diameter.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/18/2016
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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Ovarian Cysts »

An ovarian cyst is a sac filled with liquid or semi-liquid material arising in an ovary.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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