What Causes Skin Cysts?

By definition, a cyst is a closed, saclike structure that's filled with a fluid or semisolid substance. Cysts occur within tissues throughout your body including your skin.

You can develop several types of skin cysts:

Sebaceous Cyst

A sebaceous cyst is a round swollen area that develops when a sebaceous gland becomes blocked and the sebum accumulates in a saclike structure. Sebum, an oily substance produced by the gland, normally moisturizes and protects your skin. This type of cyst typically appears on your face, upper back, and upper chest.

Epidermoid Cyst

The outer layer of your skin, called the epidermis, normally sheds old, dead skin cells. An epidermoid cyst develops when the cells go deeper into your skin instead of sloughing off. Then the cells form into a cyst and secrete keratin that fills the center of the cyst. Though epidermoid cysts can appear anywhere on your body, they usually affect your face, neck, and trunk.

Pilonidal Cyst

A pilonidal cyst is nearly always located near your tailbone, where it occurs in people who sit for a long time. This type of cyst develops when body hair becomes embedded in your skin, creating an abnormal pocket that contains skin and hair debris.

What symptoms might develop due to skin cysts?

Sebaceous, epidermoid, and pilonidal cysts seldom cause symptoms other than a small lump. A yellow substance may drain out of an epidermoid cyst. Any of these cysts may become infected. When that happens, you have symptoms such as redness, swelling, and tenderness.

How are skin cysts removed?

Dr. Paracha will administer a local anesthetic, makes a small incision and either remove the entire cyst or drains the cyst and removes the cyst wall, depending on its type and size.

The tissues that are removed are always sent to dermato-pathologists, or a pathologist who specializes in soft skin tissue. Though skin cysts are not cancerous, some types of cancer can cause a cyst. A biopsy verifies that no cancer cells were present.

You receive detailed instructions about caring for the incision and changing dressings as needed, depending on if your cyst is left open or closed with stitches.

​​​​​​​If you have a painful or infected skin cyst, call us right away.

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