Lena Dunham Hospitalized with Ruptured Ovarian Cyst

Girls star Lena Dunham was hospitalized last night after she experienced the rupture of an ovarian cyst. Her spokesperson, Cindi Berger, told People magazine:

“Lena Dunham has been very public with her personal bouts with endometriosis. This morning, she suffered from an ovarian cyst rupture and has been taken to the hospital. Lena will be undergoing surgery at an undisclosed hospital. We thank you for you understanding and hope that Lena’s privacy will be respected.”

Dunham had  announced last month that she would not be on the media circuit to promote Season 6 of Girls because of her battle with endometriosis, a disease where the tissue that makes up the lining of the uterus (womb) grows in other areas of the pelvis.

Lena Dunham endometriosis

What are ovarian cysts?

The ovaries, where a woman’s eggs are produced, have tiny fluid-filled sacs called follicles or cysts. As the egg grows, the follicle builds up fluid. When the egg matures, the follicle breaks open, the egg is released, and the egg travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus (womb) for fertilization. This is called ovulation.

Ovarian cysts form in or on the ovaries. They are fluid-filled sacs. The most common type of ovarian cyst is a functional cyst.

Functional cysts often form during the menstrual cycle. The two types are:

  • Follicle cysts. These cysts form when the sac doesn’t break open to release the egg. Then the sac keeps growing. This type of cyst most often goes away in 1 to 3 months.
  • Corpus luteum cysts. These cysts form if the sac doesn’t dissolve. Instead, the sac seals off after the egg is released. Then fluid builds up inside. Most of these cysts go away after a few weeks. They can grow to almost 4 inches. They may bleed or twist the ovary and cause pain. They are rarely cancerous. Some drugs used to cause ovulation, such as Clomid® or Serophene®, can raise the risk of getting these cysts.

What are the symptoms of ovarian cysts?

Many ovarian cysts don’t cause symptoms. Others can cause:

  • Pressure, swelling, or pain in the abdomen
  • Pelvic pain
  • Dull ache in the lower back and thighs
  • Problems passing urine completely
  • Pain during sex
  • Weight gain
  • Pain during your period
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Breast tenderness

If you have these symptoms, get help right away:

  • Pain with fever and vomiting
  • Sudden, severe abdominal pain
  • Faintness, dizziness, or weakness
  • Rapid breathing

How are cysts treated?

Watchful waiting. If you have a cyst, you may be told to wait and have a second exam in 1 to 3 months. Your doctor will check to see if the cyst has changed in size.

This is a common treatment option for women who:

  • Are in their childbearing years
  • Have no symptoms
  • Have a fluid-filled cyst

It may be an option for postmenopausal women.

Surgery. Your doctor may want to remove the cyst if you are postmenopausal, or if it:

  • Doesn’t go away after several menstrual cycles
  • Gets larger
  • Looks odd on the ultrasound
  • Causes pain

Some women have many cysts in their ovaries. This is called Polycystic Ovary Disease (PCO). You can learn more about this disease by clicking here.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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