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Up to 80 percent of all women will experience at least one ovarian cyst at some time in their life. Many of these women will not experience any symptoms, but those who do can find them quite bothersome. With back pain being something millions of women experience, many women are often concerned about whether or not lower back pain can be caused by ovarian cysts.
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What is an Ovarian Cyst?
A cyst is a sac that is filled with fluid. Ovarian cysts will form on the ovaries or in them. Functional cysts are the most common types. Functional cysts include:
- Follicle Cyst: When the sack does not release the egg by breaking open, this type of ovarian cyst occurs, and the sac continues to grow. It typically takes one to three months for this cyst to disappear.
- Corpus Luteum Cyst: When the sac does not dissolve, this cyst can form. Once the egg is released, the sac seals off. Fluid then builds up inside. It typically takes a few weeks for this type of cyst to disappear, but they can grow up to four inches. They can also twist the ovary or bleed, which results in pain.
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Can an Ovarian Cyst Cause Back Pain?
The answer to whether or not lower back pain can be caused by ovarian cysts is, yes. The back pain associated with an ovarian cyst is most often described as a dull ache. This pain will be felt in the lower back. The achy lower back that some women experience during menstruation is often compared to how the lower back pain caused by an ovarian cyst feels. This ache can also be felt in the thighs.
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Other Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts
Many women will not experience symptoms. However, those that do can experience:
- Abdominal pressure, pain, or swelling
- Difficulty completely passing urine
- Weight gain
- Abnormal bleeding
- Breast tenderness
- Pelvic pain
- Painful intercourse
- Pain during menstruation
- Nausea or vomiting
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Possible Complications of Ovarian Cysts
Ovarian cysts can cause complications, some of which can be life-threatening. If a patient experiences any of the following symptoms, it is a medical emergency:
- Pain with vomiting and fever
- Fainting, weakness, or dizziness
- Sudden, severe abdominal pain
- Rapid breathing
These symptoms could indicate a serious ovarian cyst complication, such as a ruptured ovarian cyst or torsion. Functional ovarian cysts are rarely cancerous, however, any growth on the ovaries should be checked out by a medical doctor to rule out cancer and confirm what it is.
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How to Treat Ovarian Cysts
If the patient is not having any symptoms, or the symptoms are not bothersome, they may simply be asked to watchfully wait for one to three months and then go back to their doctor for another examination. If at any time during the watchful waiting period anything changes, the patient should immediately contact her doctor and/or obtain emergency assistance (if necessary).
Surgery can be performed if the patient is experiencing pain, if the cyst gets larger, if the cyst does not disappear after the patient has several menstrual cycles, or if the cyst appears abnormal on an ultrasound. There are two pain types of surgery used and they include laparoscopy and laparotomy.
Birth control pills can also be beneficial to some women. They can help to stop ovulation, thereby, preventing the formation of functional cysts in most cases.
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The National Women's Health Information Center. (2008). Ovarian Cysts. Retrieved on June 19, 2010 from The National Women's Health Information Center: http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/ovarian-cysts.cfm#3
Mayo Clinic. (2008). Ovarian Cysts. Retrieved on June 19, 2010 from the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ovarian-cysts/DS00129
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Radiologic Image of Ovarian Cyst: Jmh649 - Wikimedia Commons