Most women can relate to the occasional discomfort they feel during their period. Hormonal changes and mild cramps can be unpleasant, but they’re just a common and benign side effect of an otherwise normal cycle. Many women will try to “push through” the pain and discomfort of menstruation.
Intense pain and discomfort aren’t normal, though. It can be a sign of something more serious. That is why it’s important to listen to your body’s pain signals and learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of illness. In this article, we’ll explain why the discomfort could be ovarian cysts. We’ll discuss the common symptoms of ovarian cysts, as well as treatments, both traditional and holistic.
Definition of Ovarian Cysts
A cyst is an enclosed piece of tissue filled with air, fluid, or other substances. Cysts can occur in many places in the body. Ovarian cysts happen when a fluid-filled pocket develops on or in an ovary. Ovarian cysts are common and typically form during the ovulation phase of a women’s menstruation cycle, when a woman is pregnant, or in women who have not yet reached menopause.
Fortunately, most ovarian cysts are harmless. Many women don’t even know when they have a cyst because most ovarian cysts will form and disappear without treatment or symptoms.
Persistent cysts can be incredibly painful, however. In some cases, they can become cancerous or rupture. A medical professional should treat problematic cysts to relieve pain and preserve health.
Who Is Affected by Ovarian Cysts?
It is common for women who have regular periods to develop ovarian cysts at some point. Many are unaware they have a cyst unless there is a problem. About 8% of premenopausal women grow large cysts that require treatment.
It is uncommon for postmenopausal women to develop ovarian cysts. If they do, they are at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. Several risk factors that increase the likelihood of a patient developing large and persistent ovarian cysts, such as:
- Hormonal irregularities
- Pelvic infections
It is important for all women, regardless of age, to see a doctor if they think they might be experiencing signs of ovarian cysts.
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts
The majority of ovarian cysts do not present noticeable symptoms. Sometimes their signs may be confused with typical menstrual symptoms.
Patients struggling with this condition frequently report serious symptoms like pain, bloating, nausea, painful intercourse, and more. These symptoms can be severe enough to disrupt daily life and activities in some cases.
Sharp pain or dull ache may occur intermittently for some women. A ruptured cyst typically causes acute, intense pain. Discomfort accompanied by nausea and vomiting may indicate a twisted ovary as a result of a cyst.
Several symptoms to be aware of include:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Mild aches in lower back and thighs
- Painful intercourse
- Painful menstruation
- Painful bowel movements
- Unexpected weight gain
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding
- Tender breasts
- Frequent urination
The majority of ovarian cysts heal on their own without medical intervention. It is still very important to recognize the signs and symptoms of ovarian cysts because some are problematic and require special care. There are holistic remedies available to help alleviate the negative impacts, and a doctor may prescribe pain medication to alleviate the discomfort if you are experiencing intense pain. These two options can often work in tandem to improve the relief.
Severe symptoms require immediate medical attention—contact your provider if you experience intense pain in the pelvis, fever, light-headedness, dizziness, or hyperventilation. A ruptured cyst or ovarian torsion may be the cause of any of these symptoms. Early treatment is vital to avoiding dangerous repercussions.
Treating Ovarian Cysts
For cysts that require treatment, the protocol usually begins with a medical examination followed by a consult with your doctor about the best course forward for your situation. Typically, your doctor will have you come in for a pelvic examination that will give your physician an idea of the size, position, and severity of the cyst. The doctor may then recommend:
- Watching and waiting to determine how the cyst progresses and if it will heal on its own.
- Heat, which increases blood flow, thereby reducing pain. A heating pad or hot water bottle wrapped in a towel can be applied to the stomach or lower back for 20 minutes several times a day.
- Exercise and stretching, which can ease pain and muscle tension. Yoga is a good way to get physical activity, stretch, and reduce anxiety, all of which can help ease symptoms.
- An ultrasound, which gives a detailed understanding of the cyst’s location, size, shape, and characteristics.
- Tests, such as pregnancy, hormone, or blood panels to measure hormone-related problems or potential cancer markers.
- Hormonal birth control, which can regulate or stop ovulation and lower the risk of new cysts being formed.
- In some cases, surgery may be performed to remove a large or cancerous cyst. This is typically done in conjunction with treatment from a specialized provider such as a gynecologist or oncologist.
Unfortunately, a woman cannot do anything to prevent ovarian cysts if she is ovulating. There are, however, several methods of holistic intervention that can be useful in treating ovarian cysts. Some of these treatments include:
- Adrenal support
- Digestive healing
- Bioidentical hormone therapy and botanical medicine
- Allergy assessment
- Functional laboratory testing
- Nutritional supplementation for optimal health
As you can see, treatment for ovarian cysts varies based on the particular details of each patient’s condition. This is why it is important to speak to your doctor if you experience symptoms.
Schedule an Appointment and Begin Your Healing Journey
Many women struggle with pain and illness related to their reproductive systems. When dealing with ovarian cysts, it’s easy to become frustrated and discouraged by the uncomfortable symptoms presented by this condition. The right medical provider can make all the difference during treatment.
As a Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Karen Threlkel specializes in gentle, natural approaches to healing many common women’s health concerns. Dr. Threlkel will work with you to create a roadmap to health and schedule regular checkups to support you along the way. Contact Dr. Threlkel today and learn how her comprehensive services can help you live a healthy life.