A dermoid cyst is one type of cyst that can form in or on the ovaries. These cysts often become extremely painful, as they sometimes grow quite large. Although dermoid cysts are common in women of childbearing age, they are different from other types of ovarian cysts in that they may contain skin, cartilage or bone tissue, hair follicles and teeth in addition to fat tissue. The reason for this is that a dermoid cyst develops from cells in the ovary that produce the egg. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), it is not uncommon for dermoid cysts to occur on both ovaries.
Even though symptoms vary among women, common symptoms associated with most ovarian cysts include nausea or vomiting, pain during intercourse, tenderness in the breasts, painful menstrual periods, pressure or pain in the abdomen, a dull ache in the lower back and thighs, abnormal bleeding and weight gain. Pain can sometimes come on suddenly. Other symptoms that women report include extreme fatigue, frequent urination and changes in bowel patterns. Most dermoid cysts are benign and not cancerous. However, even benign masses can continue to grow. Malignant cysts occur more often following menopause.
A cyst on the ovaries can cause a woman to gain weight that may be difficult to lose. Even when women succeed at losing weight in other areas of the body, they may be unable to lose stubborn pounds in the abdomen, retaining added inches around the waistline. While dermoid cysts typically average about 4 to 6 inches in diameter, many grow to be the size of a softball, which means that a mass can be 11 or 12 inches in diameter. In some cases, a tumour has been known to grow as large as 17 inches in diameter. Large dermoid cysts on the ovary can cause the abdomen to swell. Some women experience extreme bloating and report that they actually look several months pregnant. Dermoid cysts are more likely to occur in younger women whose bodies produce higher levels of oestrogen. High insulin levels can also cause the body to produce more hormones, which may cause a dermoid cyst to eventually grow in size. Steady weight gain in women is often attributed to female hormonal imbalance. In certain cases, gaining a few pounds on the scale may be attributed to chronic constipation, a symptom some women with dermoid cysts on the ovaries suffer with.
Surgery is the only way to remove an ovarian dermoid cyst, and it is often recommended, particularly if the cyst causes severe pain. Dermoid cysts are different from some other kinds of ovarian cysts in that this type of cyst does not go away on its own. Excruciating pain may be a sign that the cyst has ruptured or is twisting the ovary. However, unless emergency surgery is required, an ovarian dermoid cyst is usually removed by laparoscopy, a surgical procedure in which small incisions are made in the abdomen.