Personally, I consider myself to be very in-tune with my own body, so I've definitely been known to occasionally (read: frequently) google my symptoms. Whether it's a suddenly achy knee or an abnormally light period, I've always believed in the importance of taking your own well-being seriously. Of course, it can be tricky to figure out if a symptom is really serious, especially if you have to wait to make an appointment with your doctor. Kate Beckinsale's Instagram about her ruptured ovarian cyst really drives this point home, as it shows just how common a lesser-known health problem really is, not to mention it serves as a reminder of how important it is to take your own pain seriously.
"Turns out a ruptured ovarian cyst really hurts and morphine makes me cry. So thankful to everyone who looked after me," Beckinsale wrote in the caption to her post.
I don't know about you, but the mere thought of anything rupturing inside my body is enough to make me cringe, and even as someone who has a uterus, ovaries, and has sat through years of health class, I had a shaky-at-best understanding of what, exactly, an ovarian cyst is when I first saw Beckinsale's post, not to mention what causes them. If you feel a little lost, too, no worries — I got you.
The idea of an ovarian cyst can sound terrifying if you aren't familiar with it, so let's break it all down, shall we? According to the Office on Women's Health (OWH), "ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs in the ovary." In fact, if you are somebody with ovaries who gets a regular period, chances are, you've probably had an ovarian cyst before (or might even have one right now). A cyst usually forms during ovulation, and it's actually pretty common, as per the OWH.
Although a perfectly healthy person can develop ovarian cysts at any given time, someone with endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is likely to have more of them, according to the UK's National Health Service. And while the cysts themselves are usually harmless, a ruptured cyst can potentially pose a serious problem, per the OWH, and will likely require medical treatment such as surgery, as in Beckinsale's case.
Of course, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you're just dealing with particularly pesky menstrual cramps or if something more serious is going on. While cramps will usually become less uncomfortable after taking some pain medication, Dr. Ghodsi explained, a sudden, sharp, and persistent pain in your abdomen could be a sign of a ruptured ovarian cyst.
About 5 to 10 percent of women have surgery to remove an ovarian cyst, according to the Cleveland Clinic, but treatment for the condition isn't always so rigorous. If a cyst isn't quite that severe, your doctor might simply prescribe pain medication until your body heals, per the OWH. If you're having problems with ovarian cysts on a regular basis, hormonal birth control may help to reduce your risk by preventing you from ovulating, the OWH explains.
If you're in serious pain, it's always worth getting things checked out by your doctor, or, if you can't wait, an emergency room. Just make sure you're continuously being aware of your body and not dismissing any signs that something isn't normal.