What is ovarian cysts?

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Hemorrhagic ovarian cyst: Overview

An ovarian cyst is a sac that forms on the ovary and swells up with fluid. If the cyst bleeds, it is called a hemorrhagic (say "heh-muh-RA-jick") ovarian cyst. If a hemorrhagic cyst breaks open, it can release blood and fluid into the lower belly and pelvis.

You may not have symptoms from the cyst. But if it is large, or if it twists or breaks open, you may have pain or other problems. You may feel pain from the cyst or have symptoms from losing blood.

Your doctor may use a pelvic ultrasound to see if you have a cyst. Blood tests can help your doctor tell if the cyst is bleeding or you have lost a lot of blood.

Treatment depends on your symptoms. If they are mild, your doctor may suggest carefully watching your symptoms and doing blood tests again. But if you have a cyst that is very large, bleeds a lot, or causes other problems, your doctor may suggest surgery to remove it. If the bleeding is heavy, you may also need treatment to replace the blood.

Ultrasound of Ovarian Cysts

Ultrasound images of ovarian cysts

Image courtesy of Intermountain Medical Imaging, Boise, Idaho.

Figure 1 shows small normal-sized cysts. Figure 2 shows large cysts that affect the ovary and may cause pain.

How can you care for yourself when you have a ruptured ovarian cyst?

  • Use heat, such as a warm water bottle, a heating pad set on low, or a warm bath, to relax tense muscles and relieve cramping.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.

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