Painful Ovarian Cyst

Medically Reviewed by Dr Sravya, MBBS, MS 


Painful ovarian cysts are a common occurrence in women. They usually go unnoticed as they do not cause any symptoms. They are mostly harmless and shrink away on their own within a couple of months. Most ovarian cysts produce little or no discomfort, but in other situations, they can be severely painful and interrupt daily living. We will examine the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of painful ovarian cysts in this blog.

Painful ovarian cysts

What are Ovarian Cysts?

A cyst is a sac-like structure that is filled with either fluid or semi-solid material.

Cysts that are found on or in the ovaries are called Ovarian cysts. They may be single or many, and they may be present on one or both ovaries. Ovarian cysts are seen more commonly in premenopausal women and usually disappear within a couple of menstrual cycles. Most cysts are non-cancerous. However, post-menopausal cysts may become cancerous.

Since they are usually painless, you may learn of a cyst when you go for regular check-ups or during abdominal or pelvic ultrasounds for other conditions.

Ovarian cysts are painful if they grow large in size, rupture, and bleed or cause the ovaries to twist (ovarian torsion).

Different types of ovarian cysts

Most ovarian cysts are called functional or simple cysts and form due to ovulation. They usually shrink within a few months and do not need any intervention. Your health provider may want to monitor them regularly for any changes.

These can be of two types:

1. Follicular cysts: Follicles are sac-like structures containing eggs. Every month, a follicle in one of the ovaries ruptures and releases an egg. This process is called ovulation. A follicular cyst is formed when the follicle does not rupture but is filled with fluid.

2. Corpus Luteum cysts: When the follicle bursts open to release the egg, the remaining follicle lining is called the corpus luteum. It releases hormones to prepare the body for the next cycle. Sometimes, the corpus luteum may reseal and get filled with fluid, forming a cyst.

Some ovarian cysts develop due to abnormal cell growth. These are:

1. Dermoid cysts:

These are ovarian cysts containing tissues such as teeth, hair, skin, or other body parts. They are non-cancerous but may cause complications and pain if they grow too large. They do not shrink on their own and need surgery.

2. Endometriomas:

Endometriosis is the abnormal growth of the uterus wall or endometrium. The tissue forms adhesions to the organs near the uterus. Endometriosis is seen in women in the age group of 25–40 years.

Ovarian cysts, usually seen in women with endometriosis, are called ovarian endometriomas. They are also known as “chocolate cysts” because of the chocolate-syrup-like fluid present in them. They may turn cancerous and affect getting pregnant.

3. Cystadenoma:

Cystadenomas are found on the surface of the ovary and may be filled with watery or mucous material. They are painless when small but cause dull or sharp pain if they grow large and press on surrounding organs.

Ovarian cysts may also occur during pregnancy in conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and due to severe pelvic infections.

What does ovarian cyst pain feel like?

Most ovarian cysts do not cause pain and shrink on their own. However, they can be painful if they grow large.

Locations and types of pain due to ovarian cysts

Complications of Ovarian Cysts

Large ovarian cysts may rupture and bleed, causing severe pain, abnormal vaginal
bleeding, and swelling in the abdomen.

Ovarian torsion, or twisting of the ovaries, is another complication of large ovarian cysts. This may restrict the blood supply to the ovaries and cause excruciating pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Both conditions require the urgent attention of a healthcare professional.

Diagnosing an Ovarian Cyst

If you have been experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, you should consult a gynecologist. They will take your medical history and perform a physical examination, including a pelvic exam.

They will also request a pelvic ultrasound to detect cysts. Intravaginal ultrasounds are ideal to assess the size, location, and type of cysts.

MRI and CT scans provide a more clear picture of the cyst and the surrounding area.

Blood tests for hormone levels and cancer antigens are also done.

Ovarian cyst pain location is typically felt on one side of the lower abdomen, corresponding to the affected ovary.

Treatment of Painful Ovarian Cysts

Your doctor will suggest treatment options depending on the cause of the cysts and the severity of the symptoms. Treatment will also depend on your age and whether you are menopausal or planning a family.

They may prescribe medications for pain management and recommend waiting and watching, especially if the cysts are of the functional type.

Depending on the cause of the ovarian cyst, the doctors may give

1. Hormone supplements or birth control pills

They help regulate hormone levels and prevent new cysts

2. Surgery

Cysts that are large, persistent, and cause severe pain can be removed surgically. This procedure is called a cystectomy.

In certain cases, the doctor may recommend removing the entire ovary. The process is called oophorectomy. It is usually done

 1. If the woman does not plan to get pregnant in the future,
 2. There is a high risk of cancer
 3. Ruptured cysts or ovarian torsion cause intense pain and complications

Both surgeons and patients prefer laparoscopic surgery, as it is minimally invasive and done under spinal anesthesia. However, in some cases, open surgery may be the only method possible.
Endometriosis with endometriomas is usually treated with the removal of both the ovaries and the uterus. This procedure is called a hysterectomy.

Life-Style and Self-Care

You can also follow a healthy lifestyle while taking medications.


Painful ovarian cysts can be a challenging and distressing condition that affects the quality of life. However, it can be managed with proper medical intervention and self-care methods. If you suspect an ovarian cyst, seek the advice of a medical practitioner and follow their guidance.

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