There are a number skin conditions that cause lumps and bumps to appear on the surface or just below the skin. Sebaceous cysts are mostly found on the face, neck, or torso. They grow slowly and are not life-threatening, but they may become uncomfortable if they go unchecked.

Doctors usually diagnose a cyst with only a physical examination and medical history. In some cases, a cyst will be examined more thoroughly for signs of cancer.

This is a condition where accumulation of a cheese-like substance is found in the outermost layer of the skin, also called the epidermis. They are also referred as epidermal, keratin, and epidermoid cysts.

What is a sebaceous cyst?

The term refers to either an “epidermoid cyst,” which originates from the skin, or a “pilar cyst,” which comes from hair follicles. These cysts are closed sacs that can be found under the skin of the entire body, except for the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. A cyst usually is a slow-growing lump that can move easily under the skin. A foul odor may be noticed from the overlying skin.

What are the symptoms of sebaceous cysts?

Sebaceous cysts are usually found on the face, neck, or trunk of an affected person. Occasionally it can also affect the genitalia. Cyst formation is usually painless. They can move around and grow slowly. Sometimes they become infected, which can be indicated if the cyst is red, tender, sore, and warm to touch, or if the lump/ bump also includes grayish white, cheesy, foul-smelling drains. Medical professionals can often reach a diagnosis through an examination, though there are instances where a biopsy must be done to rule out other conditions. It is advisable that one should consult a doctor if you find that you have a cyst.

What causes sebaceous cysts?

Sebaceous cysts form out of your sebaceous gland. The sebaceous gland produces the oil called sebum that coats your hair and skin. Cysts can develop if the gland or its duct, the passage where oil is able to leave, becomes damaged or blocked. This usually occurs due to a trauma to the area. The trauma may be a scratch, a surgical wound, or a skin condition, such as acne. Sebaceous cysts grow slowly, so the trauma may have occurred months or weeks before you notice the cyst.

How are sebaceous cysts treated?

In most cases, sebaceous cysts can be ignored as they usually are not dangerous. If a small cyst becomes inflamed, a doctor can inject it with a steroid drug to reduce swelling. A doctor may drain a cyst that is large, tender or inflamed. Larger cysts may need to be removed if they cause hair loss on the scalp or interfere with clothing.

Outlook for a sebaceous cyst

Sebaceous cysts are generally not cancerous. Cysts left untreated can become very large and may eventually require surgical removal if they become uncomfortable. If you have a complete surgical removal, the cyst will most likely not return in the future. In rare cases, the removal site may become infected. Contact your doctor if your skin shows any signs of infection such as redness and pain or if you develop a fever. Most infections will go away with antibiotics, but some can be deadly if untreated.

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