What you need to know about ovarian torsion, a potentially life-threatening condition
Aside from causing excruciating pain, ovarian torsion, if left alone, can cause internal bleeding as well as a dangerous infection.
Ovarian torsion isn't a widely known condition, but it is a big problem for some women, and in some cases can also turn into a life-threatening condition.
What is ovarian torsion?
Ovarian torsion simply put, is when one of a woman's ovaries moves down and rotates, causing it to cut off its own blood supply.
This can cause extreme pain, and if left untreated, can lead to infections which can be fatal.
Ovarian torsion mostly occurs in women of child-bearing age, so the older you get, the less there is a chance of having it happen to you.
"With young women, the tissue is more flexible, and the ovary can move and twist with hormonal changes," shares Mike Hoaglin, MD, an emergency room physician at Duke University Hospital. Janet Choi, MD, adds that as women get older "the ovaries get smaller and are less likely flip unless there's a cyst or mass."
What causes it?
Here are several factors that can cause ovarian torsion:
- Cysts in the ovaries - having cysts in the ovaries can greatly increase the chances the chances that ovarian torsion can occur.
- Fertility treatments - if you're taking fertility treatments, the medication has a tendency to make your ovaries grow larger, and larger ovaries are more likely to twist. So it's important to be aware of this risk should you choose to undergo fertility treatments.
- Genetics - Just like some people have longer or shorter fingers compared to others, the same thing can also happen to a woman's fallopian tubes. Women who were born with longer fallopian tubes have a higher chance of ovarian torsion compared to other women.
- Age - The older you get, the lower the chances are that you'll experience ovarian torsion, as ovarian torsion happens usually when a woman is of child-bearing age. However, there have been cases of ovarian torsion in postmenopausal women, prepubescent girls, and even in fetuses.
How can it be treated?
For the most part, women who experience symptoms of ovarian torsion need to undergo an ultrasound in order to find out what the problem is. Once it's been found that ovarian torsion is causing them pain, then doctors have several ways of treating the condition.
You might be thinking that because ovarian torsion cuts off the blood supply to the ovary, then it means that one of the ovaries won't work anymore. However, that's not always the case as in some cases, the blood supply isn't completely cut off, and the ovary can still function after surgery.
Back in the day, doctors usually removed the ovary, but these days if the doctors can see that the ovary can recover, they just untwist it and leave it in place. But if the ovary doesn't recover, surgery is required in order to prevent infection.
Despite this, women who have had an ovarian torsion don't necessarily become less fertile, as they still have one functioning ovary which is still fully capable of being fertilized.