Sebaceous cysts are also known as epidermal cysts, carbuncle cysts or keratin cysts. Dr Sal explains how to spot a sebaceous cyst, what causes them, where they usually pop up and more.
(Doctor Secrets, Canada, 2013)
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They are usually painless, slow-growing, freely movable lumps; however, sometimes a cyst will become inflamed and tender. They usually form around a hair follicle, but can sometimes be triggered by skin trauma.
Image credit: DermNet NZ
Most epidermoid cysts are small, non-painful lumps just beneath the skin. Sometimes they can grow very large over a number of years. At times, they can become infected. In this case, the lump becomes red and painful and you may need to see your doctor.
If there is uncertainty about what a lump is, you should see your doctor.
In most cases, your doctor can diagnose this type of cyst by simply examining your skin. They tend to have a typical appearance including a small central point or opening. They sometimes contain a cheesy thick material that can be squeezed out through this tiny opening. However, a key feature of an epidermoid cyst is a layer of skin surrounding the cheesy material (called a capsule) which needs to be removed fully to prevent it reforming.
Occasionally, a biopsy may be needed to rule out other conditions. If you have multiple cysts, it may be a sign of other treatable conditions, eg, cystic acne, Gardner syndrome, Steatocystoma multiplex or other types of cysts.
Epidermoid cysts aren't dangerous and, once the diagnosis has been confirmed, they can often be left alone. If they become red or swollen, you can try placing a warm moist cloth (compress) over the area.
Your doctor may be able to help if the cyst is painful or if there are cosmetic concerns. In these cases they may:
Epidermoid and pilar cysts(external link)(external link) Patient Info, UK
Epidermoid cysts(external link)(external link) DermNet NZ
Cutaneous cysts(external link)(external link) MSD Consumer Information, NZ
Cutaneous cysts and pseudocysts(external link)(external link) DermNet NZ
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