What is a dermoid cyst?

A cyst is an abnormal growth that develops as a closed sac somewhere in the body. A dermoid cyst is a specialized type of cyst that contains many different kinds of tissues, including hair, teeth, nerves, bone or fat. Dermoid cysts may be present at birth and can be found in the face, spinal cord, or skull. Dermoid cysts may also develop in the ovaries in women during the childbearing years. Dermoid cysts of the ovary, also known as benign or mature teratoma, are the focus of this article.

Dermoid cysts of the ovary develop from a primary germ cell in the ovary that is totipotential in nature; that is, it has the ability to develop into any type of mature tissue. For this reason a combination of tissue types is found in these unusual tumors, including teeth, bone, cartilage, nerves, oily material, fat, and hair. Dermoid cysts may be single or can occur in both ovaries. Their size ranges from tiny (about half an inch) to very large tumors that fill the abdomen.

Many dermoid cysts of the ovary do not cause symptoms; however, if a dermoid cyst grows, it may result in complications. Some women with a dermoid cyst may have abdominal pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding, difficulty urinating, or a dull ache in the lower back and thighs. In some cases, a dermoid cyst may grow large enough to put pressure on or twist the ovary (ovarian torsion, which compromises the ovary’s blood supply and constitutes an emergency). This may result in abnormal pain and bleeding. An enlarged dermoid cyst can also cause pain in the pelvic region, and pressure on the bladder may result in difficulty urinating.

A small percentage of dermoid cysts can progress to cancer. Treatment of a dermoid cyst is surgical removal.

A dermoid cyst is rarely an emergency, but it may result in twisting or torsion of the ovary, compromising its blood supply. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as severe abdominal pain or uncontrollable vomiting.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of a dermoid cyst?

A dermoid cyst may have no symptoms. In other cases, symptoms occur but vary in intensity among individuals.... Read more about dermoid cystsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes a dermoid cyst?

A dermoid cyst of the ovaries develops from a totipotential cell that retains the capability to form all kinds of body tissues.... Read more about dermoid cystcauses

TREATMENTS

How is dermoid cyst treated?

Treatment for a dermoid cyst begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine whether you have dermoid cyst, your health care provider will ask you to undergo diagnostic testing.... Read more about dermoid cysttreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.