What are the Symptoms of a Ruptured Ovarian Cyst?

Although for many women, an ovarian cyst will develop without symptoms and recede without medical intervention, there are potential and serious complications associated with this condition. These include cystic rupture, torsion or pressure on nearby organs. A cyst that ruptures can cause not only intense pain, but also further serious medical complications.

The difficulty with ovarian cysts is that the symptoms of a ruptured ovarian cyst are often very similar to those which indicated the presence of a regular ovarian cyst. In both instances, the most common symptom is pain. In particular, a woman with an ovarian cyst will often notice pelvic pain which is constant, dull and aching. She may also experience pain during other daily activities, such as during or immediately following sexual intercourse. Pain may also be felt when passing a bowel movement or during regular daily activities such lifting, bending or reaching. Other more intense activities such sports and physical activity may also induce pain.

A woman with a ruptured ovarian cyst may experience pain associated with their menstrual cycle – in particular, pain may escalate just prior to or just after the menstrual period. A woman with an ovarian cyst, whether it is intact or ruptured, may experience a menstrual cycle that is irregular, or which is longer or shorter than usual. Bleeding may be much heavier than usual, or may be present as "spotting" – small bleeds that occur at random throughout the menstrual cycle. By contrast, other women with an ovarian cyst may find that their menstrual period stops altogether (amenorrhea).

When an ovarian cyst ruptures, there is inevitably an onset of sharp, piercing pain, particularly in the lower abdominal quadrants. If there has been no pain associated with the presence of the ovarian cyst prior to rupture, the increase in pain upon cystic rupture will be particularly evident. If the intact ovarian cyst has induced pain prior to rupture, you may notice a slow escalation of pain when the ovarian cyst ruptures.

Following the rupture of an ovarian cyst, it is common for the abdomen to be distended and for it to be particularly tender. Ovarian cyst rupture is sometimes associated with hemorrhage and as such, abdominal pain and bloating, especially if you are taking anticoagulant medications such as Warfarin, is of particular concern. Sometimes a patient may also experience pallor or anemia, which may both be indicative of blood loss and internal bleeding. Internal bleeding is very serious and will require surgery to stem the blood flow and remove the blood from your abdominal cavity.

Other, more generalised symptoms which may support the diagnosis of ovarian cyst rupture include fever and nausea or vomiting. Patients whose cyst has ruptured may experience weakness, dizziness or fainting. These symptoms are serious, as they may be indicative of internal bleeding. In addition, excessively high or low blood pressure which is unrelated to or not explained by other medical conditions you are currently being treated for or medications that you are taking also warrants concern and immediate medical investigation.

Although the symptoms of a ruptured ovarian cyst are very similar to those present when an ovarian cyst has not ruptured, as well as similar to other less serious abdominal complaints, there is no reason to ignore these symptoms and wait for them to go away. A ruptured ovarian cyst can have potentially life-threatening complications, such as hemorrhage and infection and it is much better to have your symptoms investigated and found to be benign, than to require emergency surgery for a critical condition.