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 skin and skin appendages, which include hair follicles and sweat glands. Dermoid cysts have different names depending on where in the body they form and what types of structures are inside them. It can be a bit confusing. For example, a dermoid cyst that contains many types of cells, such as skin, hair, teeth, fat, bone and nerve cells, is called a teratoma.

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 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. They are the most common ovarian mass diagnosed in young adult women.

Many dermoid cysts of the ovary do not directly cause symptoms; however, if a dermoid cyst grows, it may result in complications due to encroachment upon neighboring structures. 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.


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.

Common symptoms of dermoid cyst

Possible symptoms of dermoid cyst include:


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.

What are the risk factors for a dermoid cyst?

Dermoid cysts of the ovaries develop in women during the reproductive years. Specific risk factors are not known.

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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.

Some women with a dermoid cyst may never have any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, however, you may undergo an Read more about dermoid cysttreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: May 29, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 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.