Sebaceous cyst – Description, symptoms, types, causes and treatment with Images

What is a sebaceous cyst?

Sebaceous cysts are pea-sized (about 1cm in size) bumps in the skin which is usually hard and filled with a fluid. They are commonly found on the neck, face, and torso but can be found anywhere on the skin. This is not usually a life-threatening condition and is noncancerous. But they can be uncomfortable. Generally, these cysts do not need any treatment. You should maintain proper hygiene and should keep clean and avoid touching them repeatedly.

What is a sebaceous cyst on the scalp?
What is a sebaceous cyst on the scalp?

There are several types of skin cysts, including:

  • Epidermoid cyst– the lining of the fluid-filled sac is formed by cells from the skin surface.
  • Pilar cysts– the lining is made up of cells like those in the roots of hairs.
  • Sebaceous cysts– these sacs contain oil, while regular skin cysts do not. They arise from the sebaceous glands in the skin.

Boils and abscesses are other types of the fluid-filled sac, which can cause problems. However, sebaceous cysts are not big or painful. You may not need any treatment unless the cyst becomes infected.

What are the causes of sebaceous cysts?

Sebaceous cysts and epidermoid cysts are often talked about interchangeably, but they are different. True sebaceous cysts arise from hair follicles, whereas epidermoid cysts develop from skin cells. After a hair follicle becomes swollen, sebaceous cysts occurs.

  • There are glands in our body which secretes an oily matter called sebum, which lubricates the skin and hair; such glands are responsible for sebaceous cysts whereas epidermoid cysts originate from the skin.
  • You may be aware of the fact that our skin sheds cells constantly as the surface of the skin is also called as epidermis made up of the thin layers of the cells. The cysts originate from the surface of the skin is called as epidermoid cysts.
  • The cells start multiplying when they move deeper into the skin instead of the shedding which lead to the cyst formation.
  • There is a substance called keratin which secretes from the wall of the cysts and it produces very foul smell upon secretion.
  • Steatocystoma multiplex is a rare inherited disorder in which there is a number of cysts are formed, such cysts are hereditary.
  • For many years cysts remain small and they keep on growing larger. Many times, sebaceous cysts dissolve on its own..

What are the symptoms of sebaceous cysts?

Epidermoid cyst signs and symptoms include:

  • A small, round bump under the skin, usually on the face, neck or trunk
  • A tiny blackhead plugging the central opening of the cyst
  • A thick, yellow, smelly material that sometimes drains from the cyst
  • Redness, swelling and tenderness in the area, if inflamed or infected

What are the risk factors associated with sebaceous cysts?

Nearly anyone can develop one or more epidermoid cysts, but these factors make you more susceptible:

  • If you have crossed the puberty stage
  • If you have certain rare genetic disorders
  • If your skin is injured

What are the complications associated with sebaceous cysts?

When a sebaceous cyst ruptures, it may lead to boil-like infection. In such condition, you should get the treatment immediately. Usually, there are no complications or side effects are noticed after removal or drainage of cysts surgically.

However it is not mandatory every time, as they can sometimes recur even after successful surgery.

What causes a sebaceous cyst to become infected? How do you treat an infected cyst?
What causes a sebaceous cyst to become infected? How do you treat an infected cyst?

What you can do, what you shouldn’t do if you have sebaceous cysts?

·       You should never try to pop the cysts in order to drain the fluid inside the cysts. As popping the cysts may lead to infection which can cause cysts to come back.

·       You should maintain hygiene by cleaning the cysts with warm water and soap.

·       In order to soothe the cysts and speed up the healing, you should try putting a warm cloth n cyst for about half an hour. Repeat it for 3 to 4 times a day.

  • Wrap it in a bandage if it starts to drain and make an appointment with your doctor.

How to diagnose a sebaceous cyst?

A simple examination is enough for the diagnosis of the sebaceous cysts when you visit your physician. You may have to undergo other additional tests if your cyst is unusual upon the recommendation of a doctor. Such tests are basically done in order to rule out cancers if any. If you wish to remove these cysts surgically, you should need these tests.

Common tests used for a sebaceous cyst include:

  • CT scans: which help your doctor find the best route for surgery and spot abnormalities
  • Ultrasounds: which identify the contents inside the cyst.
  • Biopsy: In this test, your doctor will remove a small amount of tissue from the cyst which is further sent to the laboratory for checking the signs of the cancer.

How to treat sebaceous cyst?

For treating your sebaceous cyst, your doctor may opt for draining it or remove it surgically.  Normally, cysts are removed for cosmetic reasons, instead of any other reason. Cysts are not harmful to your health; you may be given multiple options for the treatment of cysts.

It is important to remember that without surgical removal, your cyst will usually come back. The best treatment is to ensure complete removal through surgery. Some people do decide against surgery, however, because it can cause scarring.

Your doctor may use one of the following methods to remove your cyst:

  • A treatment called conventional wide excision which involves complete removal of the cyst but it can leave a scar that lasts for a lifetime.
  • Another option that carries minimal scarring risk is minimal excision but it comes along with the risk of recurrence of cyst.
  • You can also opt for laser with punch biopsy excision, in which the fluid of the cyst is drained with the help of a small hole, which is made with help of a laser in the cyst. The left outer wall of the cyst is removed after a month later.

After your cyst is removed, your doctor may give you an antibiotic ointment to prevent infection. You should use this until the healing process is complete. You may also be given a scar cream to reduce the appearance of any surgical scars.

What is the outlook for a sebaceous cyst?

There are minimal chances if a sebaceous cyst is cancerous. You should never ignore any cyst as if left untreated; because they can grow to very large size. You should undergo surgical removal of the cyst if it becomes uncomfortable.

After complete and successful removal of cysts, there is no risk of recurrence of such cysts in most of the cases.

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