Definition

What are epidermoid cysts?

Epidermoid cysts, also called sebaceous, keratin, or epithelial cysts, are small, hard lumps that develop under the skin. These cysts are common. They grow slowly. They do not cause other symptoms and are nearly never cancerous. Epidermoid cysts are often found on the face, head, neck, back, or genitals. They can range in size from 1/4 inch to 2 inches across. They look like a small bump, are tan to yellow in color, and are filled with thick, smelly matter. They do not cause any pain and can usually be ignored.

How common are epidermoid cysts?

Epidermoid cysts are extremely common. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of epidermoid cysts?

The common symptoms of epidermoid cysts are:

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

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have a cyst that:

  • Grows rapidly
  • Ruptures or becomes painful or infected
  • Occurs in a spot that’s constantly irritated
  • Bothers you for cosmetic reasons

Causes

What causes epidermoid cysts?

Epidermoid cysts are usually caused by a buildup of keratin. Keratin is a protein that occurs naturally in skin cells. Cysts develop when the protein is trapped below the skin because of disruption to the skin or to a hair follicle. These cysts often develop in response to skin trauma, HPV infection, acne, or excessive exposure to the sun. An epidermoid cyst is more likely to develop in people with acne or other skin conditions.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for epidermoid cysts?

There are many risk factors for epidermoid cysts, such as:

  • Being past puberty
  • Having a history of acne
  • Having certain rare genetic disorders
  • Injuring the skin

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is epidermoid cysts diagnosed?

To diagnose epidermoid cysts, a physician will examine the bump and surrounding skin, as well as take a medical history. They will ask for details on how long the bump has been present and whether it has changed over time. Physicians can usually diagnose an epidermoid cyst by examination only, but sometimes an ultrasound or a referral to a dermatologist is needed to confirm the diagnosis.

How are epidermoid cysts treated?

You can usually leave a cyst alone if it doesn’t cause discomfort or cosmetic problems. If you seek treatment, talk with your doctor about these options:

  • This treatment involves injecting the cyst with a medicine that reduces swelling and inflammation.
  • Incision and drainage. With this method, your doctor makes a small cut in the cyst and gently squeezes out the contents. This is a fairly quick and easy method, but cysts often recur after this treatment.
  • Minor surgery. Your doctor can remove the entire cyst. You may need to return to the doctor’s office to have stitches removed. Minor surgery is safe and effective and usually prevents cysts from recurring.If your cyst is inflamed, your doctor may delay the surgery.
  • This method involves using a carbon dioxide laser to vaporize the cyst. It results in minimal scarring.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage epidermoid cysts?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with epidermoid cysts:

  • Not squeezing a cyst yourself
  • Placing a warm, moist cloth over the area to help the cyst drain and heal

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: July 6, 2017 | Last Modified: July 6, 2017

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