As with any unexpected medical issue, an enlarged or swollen ovary might initially come across as alarming. However, in most cases, there are various, relatively common, and easily diagnosable causes of swelling and enlargement. In fact, during certain phases of your menstrual cycle, some swelling is normal. Typically, enlarged ovaries will return to their regular size within a few days. Still, if you have concerns or are experiencing severe symptoms, you should reach out to your health care provider for assistance.
What Is an Enlarged Ovary?
Simply put, this condition makes one ovary larger than the other and may cause a variety of other mild to severe symptoms. Some women might experience swelling of the ovary or ovaries without any side effects at all while others may suffer cramps and other forms of discomfort.
Typically speaking, if your ovaries are enlarged or swollen, you might notice some of the following:
- Soreness or pain in the lower abdomen
- A low-grade fever
- Unintentional changes in body weight, such as rapid gain or loss
- Pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse or menstrual cycle
- Abnormal periods and irregular spotting
- Difficulty using the restroom
- Sudden, urgent need to use the bathroom
Despite varying in severity, these symptoms are often treatable and can be managed. Additionally, these symptoms are not always directly related to the swelling of the ovaries. Therefore, you should consult a medical professional to rule out other serious health issues if you’re experiencing these symptoms.
What Causes Ovaries to Enlarge?
Many women’s health issues have a variety of causes. The issue of swollen ovaries is no different—there are several different reasons you could notice an enlarged ovary. Thankfully, many of the causes are linked to standard women’s issues that are treatable with medication, lifestyle changes, and regular doctor visits.
The first most common reason for your ovaries to swell is follicle development and ovulation. Typically, one to two weeks before the start of your period, your body begins ovulating. During ovulation, the body grows and matures an egg to prepare for fertilization. Upon the release of the egg, the ovary forms a corpus luteum. These types of cysts develop naturally as a normal function of the ovary and thus are referred to as “functional” ovarian cysts.
Throughout this process, minor swelling is normal and poses no need for concern. Generally speaking, the swelling goes down within a few days after the egg has matured and is released. However, prolonged swelling could indicate other issues that you should discuss with your doctor.
During ovulation, you’ll likely notice these symptoms as well:
- Increased vaginal discharge
- A moderate increase in overall body temperature
- Cramping or sharp pain in the lower abdomen, known as ovulation pain
Several other types of cysts can develop and contribute to what causes enlarged ovaries. These new growths are what are referred to as “neoplasms. Neoplasms, or new growths, are usually benign. However, on occasion, they can also be malignant.
Dermoid cysts are one of the most common types of benign ovarian cysts found in women. These can be managed with observation but sometimes will require surgery.
Additionally, hormone imbalance can lead to health issues such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis. These conditions cause cysts to form on the ovaries, which can lead to swelling, fever, and discomfort, among other problems. A doctor must diagnose both of these conditions.
Frequently, individuals who suffer from these conditions experience a variety of other symptoms outside of swelling. For instance, you may also note irregular periods, pain in the lower back and abdomen, difficulty conceiving or infertility, weight gain, and unwanted hair growth.
Each of these conditions causes a variety of cysts to form on the ovaries, which may, in turn, lead to swelling. The cysts that form from these conditions may require surgical removal. Ultimately, it will depend upon analysis from a medical professional. If you’re experiencing severe side effects from one of these conditions, you should speak with a doctor. Untreated side effects can have negative impacts on your overall health and your fertility.
Tumors in an Enlarged Ovary
In some rare cases, tumors can make one ovary larger than the other. Statistically speaking, the chances of cancerous tumors are very rare. Only approximately 22,000 individuals are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. Often, though, a swollen ovary is one of the first indicators of ovarian cancer, making it important that you consult a medical professional if you have concerns.
When you consult a doctor, he or she will often ask you a variety of questions to determine the root cause of the problem. As stated, the chances of cancerous tumors are relatively low. However, they are possible—and untreated swelling may allow cancer to spread. Therefore, the doctor will ask preliminary questions and perform basic examinations to determine if further testing is necessary.
What Should You Do If You Have Swollen Ovaries?
Unexplained swelling in any part of the body can come across as somewhat concerning initially. It’s important to consider the severity of the symptoms you’re experiencing and the length of time they’ve been present. Any prolonged discomfort should be investigated by a medical professional, if possible. An examination can help rule out potential health issues and allow doctors to make a treatment plan that focuses on eliminating and reducing negative symptoms of ovarian cysts and swelling.
In most cases, swelling comes as a side effect of normal health issues that hundreds of thousands of women experience. Therefore, treatment options are available to help alleviate these symptoms. All the same, swelling in the ovaries is normally no reason for alarm and often will resolve itself on its own, without medical intervention.
If you have concerns or are experiencing excessive fever, pain, or swelling, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor. At times, this can be a side effect of a medical emergency, such as a twisted ovary. If you are not in excessive pain or experiencing other severe side effects, you likely have minimal reason to worry.
Ultimately, swollen ovaries occur for a variety of reasons that are non-urgent and do not require immediate medical care. You must discuss any swelling or enlargement you notice with your doctor to eliminate the possibility of cancer or tumors. These can lead to further medical issues, including long-term infertility. Ensuring that you address your issues with a doctor in a timely manner is, therefore, an important part of your overall health and wellness.
If you notice recurring issues or issues that present with extreme pain or high fevers, consult your doctor immediately. Minor swelling, however, can be expected during ovulation and, at times, during your menstrual cycle. Your doctor can determine if the issue needs further investigation, testing, or long-term treatment to prevent problems in the future. Contact Women’s Healthcare of Boca Raton today to schedule an appointment to discuss your gynecological problems.