Dents and irregularities in the shape of your skull are usually simple variations in anatomy. Everyone has variations in bone structure — just consider how very different people’s faces can look from each other as evidence.
But there are some instances where a new dent or bump you notice in your skull can indicate a serious medical condition. This is the type of symptom that should be checked out by a doctor, especially if the shape of your skull appears to change suddenly.
A dent in your head (also known as a skull depression) can indicate several medical conditions. It can also be genetic or happen because of an injury.
Car accidents, falls, or severe blows to the head can cause what’s called a depressed fracture in your skull. A depressed fracture means that a part of your skull has been crushed in toward your brain. This kind of injury requires emergency medical treatment.
Any significant head injury should be immediately evaluated by a doctor.
Gorham’s disease is a rare condition that leads your bone mass to be replaced by other kinds of tissue. Gorham’s disease can cause bone loss in your skull, leading to a visible dent in some cases.
Paget’s disease of bone
Paget’s disease interferes with your body’s ability to replace old bone tissue with healthy new bone tissue. This can lead to an overgrowth of bone in your skull, leading to headaches and other symptoms. Sometimes the overgrowth can make your skull appear irregular or dented.
There are case reports of skull depressions that have led doctors to discover cancer in a person. These cases are rare, but “bone-destructive” cancers (such as multiple myeloma) can cause skull depressions and skull irregularities.
Congenital skull indentation
Sometimes babies are born with an indentation in their skull. These indentations can be caused by the birth process or by the way the baby was positioned in their mother’s womb. If the bones in a baby’s skull fuse prematurely, the baby’s head may appear dented or misshapen — a condition called craniosynostosis.
If you’re concerned about a dent in your skull, your doctor will evaluate your skull’s shape. Your doctor may also ask questions about family history and other symptoms you might be having.
Often, nothing more than a thorough history and physical exam is needed, but your doctor may recommend further testing to reveal what is causing your skull depression. These tests could include:
The risk factors for developing dents in your skull depend on the underlying cause. It’s difficult to nail down who would be more “at-risk” to develop a head dent as a symptom or condition.
There is some research to suggest that men are at a higher risk than women for developing Gorham’s disease.
Genetics can play a role in some of the syndromes that can cause skull depressions in newborns, but often there is no genetic cause. In Apert syndrome, for instance, a parent can pass on the gene for the syndrome to their child, or the child can develop it spontaneously while in utero.
Risk factors for different kinds of cancers can include lifestyle factors (such as smoking), environmental triggers, and family history.
The treatments for a dent in your skull vary widely, depending on the underlying cause.
Treatment for depressed skull fractures
Depressed skull fractures often require surgery. Bone fragments will need to be removed from the area around your brain to prevent brain damage. These types of fractures are also treated with medication for pain relief and antibiotics to prevent infection.
Treatment for cancerous tumors
In the rare case that the irregular shape of your skull reveals a malignant tumor, you will need cancer treatment. Surgery will likely be required to get rid of the cancerous tumor. The treatment you need after surgery will depend on what kind of cancer you have and how aggressive the treatment needs to be.
Treatment for bone diseases
If you have Paget’s disease of bone, Gorham’s disease, or another rare bone disease that’s causing your skull dent, your doctor may prescribe bisphosphonates — drugs that keep your body from absorbing your bone tissue. Alendronate (Fosamax) and ibandronate (Boniva) are examples of these drugs. Some people may need bone grafts to surgically correct the loss of bone mass in their skull.
Treatment for babies with skull dents
When a baby is born with a head dent or skull abnormality, the symptoms will usually resolve on their own within six months. In some cases, helmet therapy may be recommended. There are also cases when surgery is required to correct the skull shape and make sure that the baby’s brain has enough room to develop as it grows.
While it’s common for the shape of people’s skulls to vary, a new dent or irregularity in your skull can occasionally indicate a serious health condition. Dents in your skull can be caused by trauma, cancer, bone diseases, and other conditions.
If you notice a change in your skull shape, you should make an appointment with your doctor. Take note of any other symptoms, like headaches, memory loss, and vision difficulties, that could be connected to a dent in your skull.