What is a cyst ?
Skin cysts are benign growths that can occur anywhere on your skin. They feel like a lump or bump below the surface of the skin. These growths can be filled with fluid, pus, or other material. Cysts can develop as a result of a skin injury, infection, or clogged oil glands. They grow slowly and are typically painless.
Cysts are harmless and usually do not require treatment unless they rupture or become infected. If the cyst is located in a place that bothers you, you can have it removed.
There are different types of cysts. Epidermoid cysts originate in the epidermis (outer layer of skin) and most commonly occur on the face, neck, and back. Pilar cysts originate from hair follicles and are primarily located on the scalp. Both contain keratin, a type of protein that helps protect the epidermis. Keratin is also a component of hair and nails.
Epidermoid and pilar cysts are commonly referred to as sebaceous cysts, although they are not the same. Sebaceous cysts originate from sebaceous (oil) glands and contain sebum, an oily substance that moisturizes, lubricates, and protects the skin and hair.
If you have a bothersome or infected cyst, call Vanguard Skin Specialists today at (719) 355-1585 for an appointment with one of our dermatologists in Colorado Springs, Pueblo, or Woodland Park, or request one online. Learn more about cysts in the FAQs below.
Your body is constantly making new skin cells and shedding old ones from the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin. An epidermoid or pilar cyst can form when these cells move inward and multiply rather than shed from the surface of your skin or scalp. The skin cells form the walls of the cyst and keratin builds up inside. This thick, yellow substance may drain from the cyst if it ruptures.
This abnormal growth of cells may be due to skin irritation or injury such as an ingrown hair or acne lesion, or damage to a hair follicle or oil gland in your skin.
If a cyst is infected, it will be red and tender from inflammation. Infected cysts can also have a whitish appearance due to the presence of pus.
Cysts that do not bother you and are not infected can be left alone. You should seek treatment for a cyst if it becomes infected or ruptures. A ruptured cyst will eventually heal without treatment but will return over time.
Treatment options for a cyst will depend on its size, location, and whether it is infected. If a cyst becomes infected, the dermatologist will need to drain it by making a small incision in the cyst and squeezing out the contents. Do NOT attempt to do this yourself at home. Doing so can make the infection worse. You may also be prescribed a course of antibiotics.
If a cyst ruptures or causes problems due to its size or location, the dermatologist can remove it in the office. This minor surgery involves numbing the area with a local anesthetic injection and cutting out the cyst. If the cyst is infected, the doctor will wait until the infection has cleared up.