Sebaceous Cyst

What are sebaceous cysts ?

Sebaceous cysts are small bumps that develop on the neck, face, trunk and substances that lubricate hair and skin.

In case one is bothered about the appearance of sebaceous cysts or if they  rupture or cause infections, then they can be removed by incision. Sebaceous  cyst is non-cancerous, and can rarely lead to skin cancers.

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Sebaceous cysts symptoms

Some of the signs and symptoms of sebaceous cysts are as follows:

  • They are small bumps or round cysts which can be easily removed by fingers
  • The size of the sebaceous cyst varies from a quarter of an inch to nearly two inches in diameter
  • They are normally yellow or white in color, but with individuals of darker skin may develop pigmented  cysts.
  • It may occur in any part of the body, but generally tends to occur on the face, trunk and neck
  • The cyst may have a central opening that is blocked by a small blackhead. This opening may be a remnant of the original hair follicle, where the initial sebaceous cyst formed. One can squeeze out a thick and cheesy material through the opening. To avoid infection, it is better to consult dermatologist.
  • Milia- Miniature Sebaceous cysts are tiny-headed and deep-rooted white heads that do not surface on skin. These are common in older women and in men with increased exposure to sun.  Long term use of oily creams or cosmetics can also cause sebaceous cysts.

The sebaceous cysts may occasionally become infected and show the following signs and symptoms:

  • Swelling, redness and tenderness around the cyst
  • Draining of yellow and thick material from cyst that is accompanied by foul smell

On some occasions, a small bump may develop in the scalp that has an appearance similar to a sebaceous cyst. Such bumps generally tend to be pilar or trichilemmal cysts with thicker walls, and always move freely under the skin. The lining of these type of cysts slightly differs from that of a sebaceous cyst.

On rare occasions sebaceous cysts can cause basal and squamous cell skin cancers. Other complications are:

  • A ruptured cyst can cause abscess which needs immediate treatment.
  • Sebaceous cysts with inflammation are tender and difficult to remove. Hence doctors treat them after the swelling has subdued.
  • Genital sebaceous cysts can cause painful urination and intercourse
  • Sebaceous cysts can spontaneously get infected or after the rupture.

Causes of sebaceous cysts

The skin surface is made up of thin protective layer of cells which the body sheds continuously. Most sebaceous cysts form over the surface cells, but move deeper in skin and multiply. Sebaceous cyst occur on face, upper back, neck and groin; mostly on small hair follicles and larger oil glands/sebaceous glands.

The wall for the cyst is formed by the epidermal cells that secrete protein keratin into the interiors, which is the thick yellow substance that drains from cyst.

Various factors lead to the abnormal production of cells, including:

  • A burst sebaceous gland: Sebaceous glands produce the sebum, which is an oil that coats each hair shaft and lubricates the skin. Inflammatory skin disorders rupture these glands and increase the risk to development of sebaceous cysts at those sites.
  • Hair follicle damage: Each hair grows from a follicle pocket in dermis, a layer of skin just below the epidermis. Follicles damaged by abrasions, wounds and injuries are blocked by surface cells.
  • Heredity: People with Gardner’s syndrome which is a genetic disorder and causes growths in colon; or with basal cell nevus syndrome, which is also an inherited condition that causes several health defects, can develop sebaceous cysts.
  • Developmental defects: When stem cells of the skin, nail or hair in a developing fetus get trapped in cells of other tissues then sebaceous cysts  can develop.

Almost everyone can get affected by sebaceous cysts, but the following factors make people more vulnerable:

  • Puberty: Though sebaceous cysts can occur in anyone, it rarely appears before puberty.
  • History of acne: Sebaceous cysts  are more common in individuals with acne history
  • Skin injuries: Any trauma or crushing injury to the skin increases the risk towards developing sebaceous cysts.
  • Male gender: Men are more prone to sebaceous cysts
  • Increased sun exposure: Milia which occurs on the face is common on those women and men with excessive and prolonged exposure to sun.

Sebaceous cysts treatment

Sebaceous cysts that do not cause functional or cosmetic problems do not require any treatment.

A ruptured, inflamed or infected cyst can be treated as follows:

  • Doctors may treat the uninfected inflammation with corticosteroids or triamcinolone acetonide.
  • By surgical method, the entire cyst is removed within two weeks, after controlling the inflammation. It prevents recurrence.
  • Doctors can drain out the contents by a simple cut in the cyst. This treatment method does not rule out a relapse.
  • To minimize the scars, doctors may use lasers to vaporize the sebaceous cysts on face or other sensitive areas.
  • Doctors prefer the minimal excision procedure that involves making a tiny incision to remove the cyst wall and contents with minimal scarring

Forming of sebaceous cysts can’t be stopped, but avoiding sun exposure and use of oil-free skin care products can prevent Milia. One should not try to squeeze the cyst, and thus avoid scars and infection.

Sebaceous cyst pictures

Here are pictures of sebaceous cysts

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