Ovarian cysts may not cause any symptoms. Pain in either side of your lower abdomen or pelvis may indicate a large or ruptured ovarian cyst, rarely a medical emergency. Severe pain, fever, and nausea do require prompt medical care.

Ovarian cysts are very common in those with ovaries. In most cases, they don’t cause too much pain.

An ovarian cyst typically forms as a sac of collected fluid caused by ovulation during menstruation. These types of ovarian cysts often go away on their own and may not cause symptoms.

Ovarian cysts can cause severe abdominal pain if they rupture or cause a twisted ovary (also called ovarian torsion). Ruptured or twisted ovaries require immediate medical care.

Ovarian cysts may also be the sign of another health condition. Seeing a doctor for regular pelvic exams can help them diagnose and treat ovarian cysts.

Keep reading to learn more about what it feels like to have an ovarian cyst and what symptoms warrant a trip to your doctor.

Pain from ovarian cysts varies from person to person.

You may feel no pain at all if you have one. You may have a handful of uncomfortable symptoms or a sudden onset of severe symptoms if an underlying condition causes a cyst to rupture or your ovary to twist.

Ovarian cysts are common during menstruation because they can form with the release of an egg during your monthly cycle. These cysts often have few symptoms and disappear in a matter of weeks or months.

Your ovaries are part of your reproductive system. Pain and discomfort you experience from ovarian cysts will typically occur near your pelvis and lower abdomen.

Many conditions have similar symptoms. Your doctor can review your symptoms and perform necessary testing to diagnose the condition and create a treatment plan.

There’s a wide range of symptoms for ovarian cysts. Here are some tips for when you should make an appointment to have a cyst examined and when you should seek immediate medical attention.

Make an appointment

Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience any combination of these symptoms:

Seek immediate medical attention

Seek immediate medical help if you experience any of the following, especially if you’re postmenopausal:

Some of these can be signs of a ruptured cyst, a twisted ovary, or another serious health condition that requires prompt medical treatment.

Twisted ovaries can cut off blood flow to your ovary and result in losing the ovary. Ruptured cysts can cause internal bleeding.

Your doctor will perform a physical exam as the first step in diagnosing an ovarian cyst. This exam will focus on your pelvic area. Your doctor will try to feel for swelling near the ovaries.

You may also undergo a few other procedures to diagnose an ovarian cyst, including:

  • Ultrasound. A pelvic ultrasound allows your doctor to confirm the ovarian cyst along with how large it is and where it’s located.
  • Laboratory tests. A doctor can examine your blood to determine pregnancy, hormone levels, and the possibility of other serious conditions.

Ovarian cysts in postmenopausal women may be a sign of cancer and may require laboratory tests or a biopsy.

Ovarian cysts don’t always require treatment. Your doctor will determine whether to treat the cyst based on the tests conducted during the diagnosis.

The severity of your symptoms, the size and location of the cyst, and your age can guide ovarian cyst treatment. Only 8 percent of those menstruating who have large cysts require treatment.

The least invasive treatment for an ovarian cyst is monitoring it over a few months. The cyst may go away on its own. Your doctor may recommend using pain medication during this waiting period to alleviate symptoms.

Large, long lasting, or concerning ovarian cysts may require another level of treatment.

When will you need surgery?

Your doctor may recommend surgery if you experience several severe symptoms or if the ovarian cyst indicates another health condition.

Ruptured and twisted ovarian cysts also will require immediate surgical intervention. Surgical options to remove cysts include:

  • Laparoscopic procedures. These require one or a few small incisions.
  • Laparotomic procedures. These are more invasive and involve a larger incision in your abdomen.

The type of surgery your doctor recommends depends on the size and severity of your ovarian cyst. These surgeries may require a recovery period of several weeks or months.

Many develop ovarian cysts during menstruation. They don’t generally cause complications or fertility concerns.

You may start taking hormonal birth control to reduce the chances of developing more ovarian cysts. This can alter your hormones and regulate your period.

Surgery to remove cysts can either leave your ovaries untouched or require the removal of an ovary. Your body releases eggs from your ovaries, so removal of one or both can impact your ability to get pregnant.

Sometimes, ovarian cysts can be the sign of more serious conditions, including:

These conditions can affect your fertility and require treatment from your doctor.

Ovarian cysts are common in those who are menstruating. These cysts often have no serious symptoms and frequently disappear on their own after a few weeks or months.

Occasionally, an ovarian cyst causes more noticeable or severe symptoms and requires more involved medical care.

You may need immediate medical attention if you have a sudden onset of lower abdomen pain or additional severe symptoms. These symptoms may be the sign of large ovarian cysts, ruptured cysts, or even a twisted ovary.

See your doctor as soon as possible for severe or sudden pain. The earlier your cyst is treated, the less likely you’ll experience complications from a ruptured or twisted cyst or from an underlying condition.