Dermoid cysts occur when tissue collects under the skin. These cysts may contain hair, teeth or nerves. They usually appear at birth. Dermoid cysts often form on your head and neck but may also be in your ovaries, on your spine or elsewhere in your body. Though dermoid cysts are usually harmless, providers often remove these cysts with surgery.
A dermoid cyst is a growth of normal tissue enclosed in a pocket of cells called a sac. This tissue grows in or under your skin in an unexpected location.
Dermoid refers to something that’s like skin. A cyst is a lump or bump that may contain fluid or other material. Most often, dermoid cysts contain a greasy yellow material, but they may contain:
Dermoid cysts can be anywhere on your body. The ones close to your skin surface may look like small lumps. People can also develop dermoid cysts deeper inside your body.
At first, a dermoid cyst can seem like a tumor, but these cysts usually aren’t harmful. You or your child may need surgery to remove a dermoid cyst. It won’t go away on its own.
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More than 8 out of 10 dermoid cysts occur on the head and neck. The most common type of dermoid cyst is a periorbital dermoid cyst. This type of cyst occurs near the outside edge of one of your eyebrows.
Other common dermoid cyst types include:
Rarer types of dermoid cysts include:
Anyone can get a dermoid cyst, but healthcare providers diagnose about 7 in 10 dermoid cysts in children under age 5. Healthcare providers diagnose about 4 in 10 dermoid cysts at birth.
Dermoid cysts are present at birth (congenital). These cysts occur when skin layers don’t grow together as they should. This happens during the early stages of development in the uterus (fetal development).
For a dermoid cyst to form, skin cells, tissues and glands typically found in skin collect in a sac. These glands continue to produce fluid, often causing the cyst to grow.
Many people with dermoid cysts have no symptoms. Some people start to experience symptoms as their cysts grow. Symptoms vary based on the type of dermoid cyst. For example:
Periorbital dermoid cyst: A lump near the edge of your eyebrow may be swollen and have a yellow tint. Over time, it can change the shape of bones in the area.
Ovarian dermoid cyst: You may have pain in your pelvic area, particularly around the time of menstruation.
Spinal dermoid cyst: A growing dermoid cyst may compress your spinal cord or nerves, causing:
To help diagnose you or your child’s condition, your healthcare provider will ask about symptoms. Your provider can diagnose a dermoid cyst in different ways depending on the cyst’s location:
Surgical removal is the only effective treatment for any type of dermoid cyst. The type of surgery depends on the kind of dermoid cyst:
Dermoid cysts are congenital (present at birth). You can’t reduce the chances of a dermoid cyst.
Untreated dermoid cysts usually don’t cause any harm. But over time, dermoid cysts may cause complications, especially if they grow. Complications can include:
Dermoid cyst surgery is usually a safe procedure. Having your or your child’s cyst removed can help manage any symptoms and prevent future complications. If you have an ovarian dermoid cyst that needs removal, talk to your provider about how surgery could affect your fertility.
See your provider if you or your child has any new symptoms or if symptoms worsen. Seek medical treatment immediately if a cyst:
To understand this condition, you may want to ask:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Dermoid cysts are usually harmless, but some may cause complications depending on their size and location. If you or your child has a dermoid cyst, talk to your healthcare provider about the best ways to treat it. Your provider can often remove a dermoid cyst through surgery. Cyst removal can reduce the chance of having symptoms in the future.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/05/2021.
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