You work hard to take care of your skin. When you go outside, you put on sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, and each day, you carefully wash and moisturize your skin. This can make it a little frightening when you notice a new lump or bump.
It might be a skin cyst that can appear anywhere on your skin from your face to your back. When you find one, you have questions. This guide can help you learn more about a cyst and help you make an informed decision about its removal by your dermatologist.
What Is a Cyst?
When you visit your dermatologist, you may hear them refer to it as an epidermal inclusion cyst or sebaceous cyst. Either way, a cyst is an enclosed capsule filled with keratin inside the layers of skin. It’s most common to find a cyst on the neck, shoulders, back, or scalp, although they can appear anywhere on the body.
Most cysts are simply unsightly but not life-threatening. Depending on the location of the cyst, they can cause you pain and discomfort. For example, a cyst on the scalp can become irritated and painful when you brush your hair. A cyst on your back or shoulder might interfere with your daily routine, such as causing pain when you put on your seatbelt.
A cyst can become infected and abscess. It might begin leaking keratin or pus, creating an unpleasant odor, and it also might appear red and inflamed. When this happens, it’s a good idea to let your dermatologist access the cyst and remove it if necessary.
Also, there is a cosmetic component to a cyst. If it’s in a place that’s noticeable, you might want it removed for cosmetic purposes even if it hasn’t become infected. Here’s a closer look at the types of skin cysts:
Epidermal Inclusion Cysts
This type of cyst is extremely common. It’s typically caused by a damaged oil gland or hair follicle. An epidermal inclusion cyst is almost always benign and is a build of Keratin under the skin. If they appear in an exposed site or become irritated, your dermatologist can easily remove them.
A pilar cyst is an epidermal inclusion cyst that forms due to the damage to a hair follicle. More than 90% of pillar cysts appear on the scalp. This can cause pain and discomfort when you brush, wash, and comb your hair. It’s common to find multiple pilar cysts at one time.
This type of cyst is a build-up of residual embryonic cells that become trapped during fetal development. These cysts are present at birth and remain until they’re removed. Due to their slow growth, these cysts might not become noticeable until childhood or the early teen years.
These cysts are a buildup of sebum in the sebaceous glands, and they aren’t nearly as common as an epidermal inclusion cyst. It’s common for them to form in a group known as a steatocystoma multiplex, but there might also be instances of a single cyst referred to as a steatocystoma simplex.
Sebaceous cysts typically form in an oil gland or a hair follicle. They most likely appear on the back, face, or scalp. With their composition of sebum and location, these cysts can grow to enormous sizes and become quite painful, leading to removal.
These cysts generally form in groups on the face, neck, or back. These cysts are generally formed due to inflamed and clogged oil ducts. Since these cysts are typically filled with pus instead of sebum or keratin, they are considered abscesses.
These aren’t normal pimples. You shouldn’t attempt to pop them as they’ll just refill with pus and continue to hurt. There are a few treatment methods available to eliminate them.
What Are the Causes of Cysts?
One of the first questions that come up when you find a cyst is: what caused it. There are a few causes of cysts, and in some cases, the cause depends on the type of cyst. The most common causes include:
Blockage of ducts in the body
Errors in embryonic development
Blocked sebaceous glands
High levels of testosterone
Androgenic anabolic steroids usage
In most cases, there isn’t a lot that you can do to stop the formation of a cyst. However, if it’s in an easily noticeable location, or the cyst causes pain, your dermatologist can treat or remove it for you.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Cyst?
When a cyst appears, it’s easy to wonder if it’s a cyst or something else. An untreated cyst can leave create permanent scarring and skin discoloration and needs to be removed.
Also, if the cyst breaks open or begins to leak fluid, it can easily become infected and painful. Some cysts are asymptomatic and need to be located through the use of ultrasound, x-ray, medical scans, or a biopsy. Some common signs and symptoms include:
Swelling in the skin
Redness along with the swelling
Mass moves easily in the skin
A swollen area that leaks pus or other substance
Anytime, there’s a new lump or bump on the skin, it’s always a good idea to have your dermatologist take a look at it. They can determine if it’s a cyst or some other type of formation and recommend a treatment plan.
How Does a Dermatologist Remove a Cyst?
Most cysts are fairly easy to remove, and your dermatologist can remove them in their office in around 10 minutes. The procedure starts with a little local anesthetic to number the area.
The dermatologist next excises the cyst by cutting into the skin around it and removing the entire cyst, including the sac that surrounds it and holds the fluids inside. If the sac isn’t removed, it can fill again, forming a new cyst. If the site is large enough, your dermatologist might put in a couple of stitches.
At the Dermatology Institute of Southern California, we understand how important it is to safely and as painlessly as possible remove a cyst. Please call us with any additional questions or to schedule an appointment.
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