Sebaceous cysts are painless and free-moving cysts, which grow very slowly. Sometimes, they can get infected, thereby causing inflammation, redness, and pain. Even though, sebaceous cysts can develop on any part of the body except the soles and palms, they are more common on the scalp, ears, face, neck, chest, back, and shoulders. Some people have such cysts on the genitalia too. The term 'sebaceous cyst' is often used to denote epidermoid cysts and pilar cysts. However, they are not true sebaceous cysts.
What are Sebaceous Cysts?
They are like a sac of cells, filled with a white, semiliquid substance having a foul odor. It has been observed that, sebaceous cysts vary in size, and are more commonly found in hairy areas. Usually, they grow very slowly, and do not cause any pain. After long durations, they may look like smooth, round bumps with no hair. The contents of the cysts may also vary, but mostly they contain fluids. In some cases, sebaceous cysts contain fibrous tissues and small amounts of fluid. Infected ones contain pus and bloody material.
Skin trauma, swollen hair follicles, and blocked sebaceous glands, are found to be the common causes of these cysts. Apart from that, some people develop sebaceous cysts due to high testosterone levels. In some cases, these cysts are found to be caused by human botfly. Some genetic causes are also attributed to this condition.
Sebaceous cysts are not generally fatal or life-threatening; but, in some rare cases, it can be cancerous. Usually, these cysts are harmless, and may disappear on their own; but, an infected one can cause inflammation, redness and tenderness of the area, and slight pain. It can also increase the temperature in and around the cyst. While small cysts may not cause any problem, infected ones can be troublesome and have to be treated. Bigger cysts can be unsightly, or may affect the daily activities. Such cysts also require medical attention.
The most common treatment for sebaceous cysts is surgical removal. It is a simple surgery that removes the entire cyst along with its contents, so that it does not recur. However, such cysts can recur in some people, who are prone to this condition. Surgery can be in the form of a traditional wide excision, punch biopsy excision, or minimal excision.
In case of surgical removal of an infected cyst, the person will be administered antibiotics, both before and after the surgery. In case of small infected cysts, the most common treatment is injecting steroids into the cysts. Home treatment for infected cysts include application of a warm moist cloth three to four times a day, for three days. The cyst will drain and heal on its own. Periodical application of heating pads over the cyst may also work.
If you notice any bump on the skin, which is gradually growing in size; it will be better to consult a doctor, to find out whether it is a sebaceous cyst or not. If it is a sebaceous cyst, refrain from squeezing, scratching, or puncturing the cyst; and keep the area clean. Even though, it is said that sebaceous cysts are not preventable; health experts recommend good skin care, avoidance of excess sunlight, and oily cosmetics for this purpose.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.