A sebaceous cyst is a closed sac that contains sebum, which is an oily white material secreted by the sebaceous glands. These develop as a result of blockage of sebaceous glands. Though the terms 'epidermoid cysts' and 'pilar cysts' are used for referring to such cysts, neither of them is a true sebaceous cyst in the strict sense. Epidermoid cysts and pilar cysts arise from the epidermis and hair follicles respectively. These are closed sacs that are filled with keratin, which is a fibrous scleroprotein that is present in the outermost layer of the skin, hair and nails. These don't contain fatty secretions from the sebaceous glands
Sebaceous glands are present all over our body except for the soles of the feet and palms. Such cysts could therefore form wherever these glands exist. Body parts such as the scalp, face, ears, chest and back are more likely to develop such cysts. Such cysts are slow-growing and usually don't cause any pain. However, these may become infected. Under such circumstances, these bumps may turn red and become painful to touch. A foul-smelling, grayish-white material might also drain from the bump.
What Causes Sebaceous Cysts?
Our skin is made up of three layers. The layers of skin contain many specialized structures. The sebaceous glands are tiny glands that are located under the skin. These produce sebum, which is an oily secretion that lubricates the skin. Sebum reaches the outer layer of the skin through tiny ducts. The epidermis, which is the outermost layer of the skin, consists of a protective layer of cells that are continuously shed by the body. These cells need to be exfoliated. At times, these dead skin cells move deeper into the skin and give rise to formation of a closed sac. The sac gets filled with secretions from the sebaceous glands. Excessive production of sebum that may occur at the onset of puberty could make one susceptible to acne. Sometimes, sebum may interact with hormones and bacteria, thereby giving rise to the formation of such closed sacs. Other contributory factors include swollen or damaged hair follicles, trauma to the skin and rupturing of sebaceous glands due to acne. Sebocystomatosis is an autosomal dominant inherited disorder that is characterized by the development of multiple dermal cysts on certain parts of the body.
Though this condition is mainly a cause of cosmetic concern, sometimes these may turn into large bumps and could even become infected. The need for timely medical treatment is essential if these gets infected. Pain, redness and inflammation are all indicative of an infection. Corticosteroids may be injected to reduce the inflammation. More often than not, the treatment involves the drainage of the contents of the closed sac. In order to do so, a small incision is made in the closed sac. However, this may not be a permanent solution as the cysts could recur. Doctors may sometimes recommend surgery. Invasive or surgical treatment may involve the removal of the entire sac and the drainage of its contents. The methods used for sebaceous cyst removal include total excision, minimal excision and punch biopsy excision.
While minimal excision is performed for removing the ones that are large, it cannot be performed on the ones that are inflamed. This method should not be used for treating the ones that may have ruptured. Minimal excision method is considered to be the best for the cysts on face since scarring is minimal and the healing is much faster. A small incision is made in the sac to drain all the contents. The cyst wall is then removed through the incision. Once doctors remove a cyst by excision, they might also use carbon dioxide laser to vaporize it. This process is known as clinical lancing. It is done to minimize scarring. A punch biopsy excision is another procedure that is similar to minimal excision. The only difference between the two procedures is that the incision is made with a single-use disposable dermal punch in case of punch biopsy excision. Once a local anesthetic called lidocaine is injected and an incision is made, the contents are drained and the cyst wall is removed.
Since the traditional wide excision or the total excision method lowers the risk of recurrence of such cysts, it is considered to be one of the most effective treatment options. If it is not infected, but there are signs of inflammation, doctors might first inject corticosteroids into it. Antibiotics may also be prescribed. The contents may be drained. Once the inflammation resolves, doctors would wait for about five to six weeks and then remove the entire cyst.
The cost of the treatment will depend on the method of removal. Surgery will cost more than the other treatments. As far as options regarding treatment at home are concerned, application of warm compresses or heating pads can be helpful. First of all, one must clean the affected area with an antibacterial soap. This is to prevent it from getting infected. Make sure that you use oil-free skin care products. Under no circumstances should one squeeze it or scratch over it. Using certain herbal medicines might also prove beneficial, but if it is large and infected, it would be better to consult a dermatologist to ascertain the best treatment option.
If you have been suffering from recurring cysts, you must consult a dermatologist soon. Surgical removal of such cysts is the best treatment option for large-sized infected cysts.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.