What Causes Ovarian Cysts To Rupture?

Pictures of ovarian cysts
What Causes Ovarian Cysts To Burst?

Signs Of Ruptured Cysts

Ovarian cysts are like blisters which grow in or on the ovaries. Some occur around menstruation time and clear up again naturally (these are called functional cysts). While others can remain and grow in size to that of a grapefruit or larger. Smaller cysts usually burst (rupture) spontaneously and heal naturally, you may not even be aware of their presence. If you do experience symptoms it is likely to feel like menstrual cramps in the lower part of the abdomen which can start several days before the cysts rupture. For others, symptoms are so severe it feels like an appendicitis attack and they seek emergency medical attention. In such cases a large cyst may have suddenly burst or twisted (torsion, see pictures).

Mild Symptoms
• Discomfort or pain in the lower tummy area, may be restricted to one side of the body.
• Pain during sexual intercourse.
• Pain when having a bowel movement.
• More intense menstrual cramps than usual.
See: What type of pain do ovarian cysts cause?

Severe Symptoms
• Sharp sudden localized pain in the lower abdomen.
• Vaginal bleeding or spotting.
• Nausea or vomiting.
• Fainting.
• Blood pressure drops, you may turn pale and clammy.

If a large cyst bursts and spills its contents into the abdominal space it can cause nausea. This brings on the urge to vomit and dizzy spells. Seek immediate medical attention if this happens because it can be highly dangerous. You may need surgery to remove the blood and pus from the abdomen released by the cyst.
See: Do ovarian cysts usually need to be surgically removed?

Causes Of Ruptures

Most functional cysts grow and harmlessly rupture in response to hormone fluctations and the menstrual cycle. Larger cysts on the other hand usually burst because either pressure is applied to them or because the skin surrounding them becomes so stretched and thin it bursts. When we talk about pressure, examples include:
• Playing a sport or taking an exercise class that cause sudden movement.
• Sex, during or immediately after sex is one of the most common times for a rupture.
• Constipation and straining for a bowel movement.
• Trauma or direct hit to the area.
• Everyday activities like bending down or reaching for something.
• Pregnancy: the risk of cysts twisting or rupturing increases signficantly in pregnant women. See, ovarian cysts in pregnancy.

Personal Stories: What Caused Your Cyst To Rupture?

I was in the middle of an aerobics class when I experience a really bad pain in my lower pelvis, stomach and legs. I went to the gyn about it and she thought I had PID. She did an ultrasound scan and next time I went back she said she didn't think I had PID. The scan showed that I had an ovarian cyst that had ruptured and pus had spread. That's what the pain was. She didn't recommend any treatment though - but I've been reading its dangerous to leave the pus in your body. I'm going to get a second opinion.
Jess, New Port

A cyst ruptured on me after having sex with my boyfriend. The doctor said there wasn't much he could do except give me some antibiotics. That was about 3 weeks ago, and I haven't had sex again. Too scared to. What I did notice was there was a buildup of pressure a few days before it burst, and then when it did burst, it felt like a relief. I hear other women though continue to feel pain for a few days as it heals.
Alison, Dublin

I'm taking the birth control pill to control recurring cysts. Last month however I missed my period and had severe cramping. I went to the doctor and when he ruled out pregnancy he diagnosed a ruptured cyst (I wasn’t having mad sex, so no obvious cause that I can think of, except I was slightly constipated). Since then, I've had continual mild cramps. From everything I read, I thought a burst cyst was supposed to cause severe sudden pain and then to go after a few hours, or a few days at the most. I've had cramps for 2 weeks now. I rang my doctor yesterday and he said it was probably because the cyst wasn't fully ruptured but rather punctured. It has a small hole and the contents were gradually leaking out, instead of bursting out in one go. This would account for why I didn't get the severe pain, and why the pain is continuous but milder. He said there was nothing he could do, it has to leak naturally and said I should take Ibuprofen in the meantime.
Karen-Lee, San Francisco

Related Questions
Spot the symptoms: What are the signs of ovarian cysts?
Or are you pregnant? Can ovarian cysts cause a missed period?
Fertility issues and pregnancy: Can ovarian cysts cause infertility?
Related Articles
Reproductive system disorders: Symptom-checker, vagina pain, bleeding and brown spotting.
The female body and human body: diagrams, pictures and location of main organs including the ovaries.

• Need more information? See: Guide to Ovarian Cysts
• Got another question? See: Womens Health Questions

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