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A ruptured ovarian cyst occurs when a cyst — basically a fluid-filled bubble or sac — forms on a woman's ovary and then becomes large enough or full enough that its walls burst or leak. This can be a relatively painful but minor situation, or it can develop quickly into a medical emergency if hemorrhaging occurs. Women who suspect that they have an ovarian cyst that has ruptured should always see a doctor to confirm cyst rupture and to make sure there is no internal bleeding.
Ovarian cysts are quite common, particularly in menstruating women. Most appear naturally as part of the process of ovulation, such as when a follicle prepares to release an egg. More rarely, ovarian cysts are identified as actually being a type of benign tumor that can contain abnormally located body tissue, such as fat or bone. Some women are particularly prone to ovarian cysts, making them more likely to experience a ruptured ovarian cyst. Having had an ovarian cyst before seems to be a good predictor of future ovarian cysts.
Usually, ovarian cysts do not cause any problems or symptoms beyond mild pain and often disappear by themselves. Many women do not even know that they have ovarian cysts until a doctor notices them during an examination for some other condition. Sometimes, cysts can cause abdominal pain that prompts a woman to visit a doctor. A ruptured ovarian cyst can cause severe sharp pain and aching pain in the pelvic area.
Frequently, the pain of a ruptured ovarian cyst will fade and go away in a few hours, and the patient will never develop other symptoms. In the case of a suspected ruptured cyst, it is better to see a doctor right away than to wait it out at home. This is particularly crucial if a feeling of light-headedness, dizziness or nausea accompanies the pain, which can indicate blood loss. An ultrasound will confirm that it is cause of the the problem, rather than another potentially dangerous condition such as ectopic pregnancy or appendicitis. A doctor can make sure that a patient is not bleeding internally from the ruptured ovarian cyst and that there is no infection.
Oral contraceptives may be prescribed to help prevent future ovarian cysts. This only prevents the type of cyst that forms during ovulation, and will not prevent all cysts. Some ovarian cysts, such as those that become quite large, cause a lot of pain, or otherwise seem suspicious may be surgically removed and examined. Cysts that appear after a woman has reached menopause — and so is no longer ovulating — should be observed more closely, as cysts can occasionally be cancerous. The vast majority of ovarian cysts, even ones that rupture, are benign and cause no serious or lasting medical problems.