It is common for women to feel abdominal cramping just before or during their menstruation. Moreover, some of them can also experience post-period cramps. They are known as secondary dysmenorrhea, and they are more likely to happen to an adult woman. If they appear just sometimes and do not last for a long time, there is nothing to worry about. You can simply use a painkiller like over the counter Naproxen and wait for them to go away, but at the same time, monitor the situation carefully and check what it is like next time.
Secondary dysmenorrhea can be typically felt in your lower abdomen and back. Also, some women feel it in their thighs and hips as well. Apart from that, it happens that the pain is not the only symptom you may feel.
There can be lightheadedness and nausea, or even abdominal bloating, diarrhea, or constipation.
If you notice that the pain is sharper and lasts longer than regular period cramps, and if it appears much earlier than right before your next menstruation, it may indicate that you have some underlying condition, such as an ovarian cyst.
Types of ovarian cysts
There are many types of ovarian cysts and the good news that most of them are not dangerous for your health.
- Functional cysts. They are the most likely to appear as an element of the regular menstrual cycle due to ovulation. Sometimes it happens that a functional cyst may be swelled and painful because of filling up with blood, but usually, they are harmless and disappear in a few months.
- Cystadenomas. This kind of cyst can grow quite big, but they are similar to a mole and just grow slowly. However, it happens that, the same as in the case of a mole, it is better to eliminate them to make sure they will not cause cancer.
- Teratomas or dermoid cysts. They are often inborn and can include various things that the body grows, such as teeth, hair, and brain or thyroid tissue. Teratomas can become cancerous but in very few cases.
- Endometriomas. Endometriosis is a condition where you have your uterine cells growing outside of the uterus. Additionally, endometriomas can be produced, and they can be either painful or harmless.
- Cancerous cysts. Luckily, ovarian cancer is not common. The lifetime risk is about 1,5%, and in the case of women having a first-degree family member with this disease, the risk is raised to 5%. Also, people with such genetic conditions as Lynch syndrome, BRCA1, or BRCA2 should be more cautious and have their cysts examined often.
Signs that you may have an ovarian cyst
Typically, ovarian cysts are so small that you may even not be aware that you have them. It often happens that they are spotted for the first time during an annual pelvic examination or another imaging test. Interestingly enough, even those that become bigger tend to be unnoticed. However, if they are already huge, their presence is indicated by a feeling of pressure or even pain.
There are also other symptoms that may suggest that you have a large cyst, such as:
- Pain during sex,
- Unexplained weight gain or loss,
- Alterations in urinary habits or bowel movements,
- Pain on one side of your lower abdomen,
- Feeling full too soon while eating,
- Painful periods.
Moreover, sometimes a cyst can bleed, burst, or even make your ovary twist on itself, what is called ovarian torsion. Such a condition can cause sudden and extreme pain.
How is an ovarian cyst treated
If an ovarian cyst is diagnosed, a patient is most likely to have a pelvic ultrasound, so that the doctor could make sure what the condition of it is and decide what treatment will be necessary. Sometimes, when the cyst is not so worrisome, they may choose to wait six to eight weeks to see if it disappears on its own. Usually, cysts are similar to water balloons, and they can even develop after menopause. It is advisable to observe them with an ultrasound at least once a year, to check if they are not getting bigger.
Occasionally, there is a need to remove a cyst surgically. For example, if it makes a patient have painful symptoms, it should be eliminated for comfort reasons. Apart from that, surgery has to be conducted when the cyst reached over 10 centimeters or if there are any abnormalities noticed with an ultrasound. If a doctor sees an additional solid tissue growing inside it, tumor marker blood tests need to be undertaken. Notably, the most common cancer antigen called CA125 has to be checked. If the level of it is too high, it may suggest cancer, particularly after menopause.
To sum up, if you feel that your period cramps are more severe than usual, or they appear too soon, it can mean you have an ovarian cyst. However, there is nothing to worry about yet, because usually, they are not harmful. Nonetheless, you should always be cautious about it and get it examined as soon as possible to make sure there is nothing wrong with it.