Sebaceous Cyst- Definition :- It is a minor, closed pouch under the skin that contains oily or sticky material.
What is a Sebaceous Cyst ?
Sebaceous cysts are benign cysts of the skin that contain an oily or semi-liquid material. They mostly contain fragments of Keratin that are white color and a crucial component of hair and nails. They are mostly observed on the face, neck or torso. It is a slow growing lump under the skin which is movable and gives out foul order.
It is either an epidermoid cyst which forms from the skin or a pilar cyst (click here to know more about pilar cyst) which forms from hair follicles. A sebaceous cyst may form if you have an obstructed sweat gland or hair follicle. Also, having acne surges your risk of developing this cyst.
On getting infected or inflamed, the cyst appears red, swollen and painful.
Size of a Sebaceous Cyst
There is no permanent size up to which a sebaceous cyst can grow. These cysts can range anywhere a few millimeters to several centimeters in size. In some cases, sebaceous cysts have been known to grow up to even 2 inches in size.
Sebaceous Cyst Symptoms
Small sebaceous cysts are usually not painful at all. However, larger cysts are generally painful and uncomfortable and may exhibit the following signs and symptoms:
- A minor round lump under the skin, often on the torso, neck or face
- A blackhead on the opening of the cyst
- A thick whitish-yellowish foul smelling fluid that drains from the cys
- Redness in the affected area
- Inflammation in the affected area
- Increased warmth of the affected skin area
- A lump which is soft to touch
- Pressure or pain on the neck or face if the cyst is large
Sebaceous Cyst Causes
Sebaceous cysts erupt from the sebaceous gland that produces oil called sebum which covers your hair and skin. If this gland gets obstructed due to some reason, a sebaceous cyst is formed. Trauma to the gland is one of the reasons of obstruction. It can be a simple scratch, acne or a surgical injury. Other causes of these cysts are:
- A deformed sebaceous duct
- Harm to cells during a surgery
- One or more genetic disorders like Gardner’s syndrome or basal cell nevus syndrome
Which doctor do you need to see for a Sebaceous Cyst?
Your general physician or family doctor will be the first doctor you see, as soon as your discover the lump. You may then be referred to a Dermatologist for further testing, consultation and treatment.
When to see a doctor?
You must see your doctor immediately if you notice any of the following:
- A lump that is growing rapidly
- If the cyst breaks open suddenly
- If the cyst becomes extremely painful
- If the cyst becomes infected
- If the cyst is becoming a cosmetic problem
Sebaceous Cyst Diagnosis
To find out if you actually have a sebaceous cyst or not, your doctor may do the following:
- Perform a thorough physical examination of the lump
- Ask questions related to your medical history
- Scrape a sample of your skin cells from the cyst to observe cells under the microscope and rule out the presence of any dead cells or cancer cells. This method is also called punch biopsy.
- CT scans which help your doctor figure out if you require a surgery or not
- Ultrasounds that help the doctor in finding the contents inside the cyst
To-do list before you set out for your appointment
Your first appointment can happen at your general physician’s or gynecologist’s clinic. In order to prepare well for your appointment, here are few things that you can do:
- Formulate a list of your symptoms including those that may not be associated to your cyst
- List down all the treatments and supplements that you had been recommended in the past or are consuming at present
- Prepare a list of questions that you may want to ask your doctor during the meeting. Some of them can be:
- Is the cyst an epidermoid cyst?
- Is the cyst a pilar cyst?
- What caused my cyst to form?
- Is it infected?
- What treatment is recommended?
- Is the cyst a recurring one?
- Will surgical removal leave a life-long scar?
- Is there any medication that can help me get rid of this cyst?
- Why is the cyst so painful?
- What is the liquid oozing from the cyst?
- Meanwhile, also be prepared to answer the subsequent questions that your doctor may ask you:
- When did you first notice the cyst on your skin?
- Have you had similar skin growths in the past?
- How often do you have acne issues?
- Is the cyst painful?
- Did you scratch your skin recently?
- Does your family have a family history of skin ailments or skin cysts like sebaceous, pilar and epidermoid cysts?
Sebaceous Cysts Complications
Below is the list of complications associated with a sebaceous cyst:
Infection:- A sebaceous skin infection is every patient’s nightmare. If the cysts become infected, they can become very painful and swollen.
Rupture:- A broken cyst leads to formation of a boil like structure which will require immediate treatment.
Inflammation:- Even if infection is not the cause, a sebaceous cyst can become red and inflamed. It can further lead to delay in surgery as the doctor cannot operate an inflamed cyst. The doctor may have to wait until the swelling comes down.
Sebaceous Cyst Treatment
If the sebaceous cyst is not causing any trouble, there may not be any need to remove it. However, if the cyst becomes infected, grows rapidly or becomes a cosmetic issue, it may require treatment.
Your doctor will suggest one or more lines of treatment based on your symptoms and characteristics of the cyst like size and color. Surgical removal is the most recommended treatment method, as there is high chance of recurrence of the cyst if other treatment methods are used.
Conventional Wide Excision
In this method, your doctor will completely remove the cyst. A wide excision is required to completely get rid of the cyst surgically. This comes handy in case of cysts that are hard and do not drain easily, however the method can leave a long scar on your skin that may not go easily.
The doctor may create an incision on the cyst and drain it completely. This method does not create any scar but the chances of the recurrence of the cyst are high
In this method, the doctor used a laser beam to create a small hole in the cyst and drain the fluid. After a month or so, the cyst wall will then be removed using minimal excision method. This method also ensures that scars are not formed and the chances of the recurrence of the cysts are less. The only con being that the method is more time consuming as compared to the former two.
Sebaceous Cyst Home Remedies
Try the home remedies and prevention methods mentioned below to get rid of a sebaceous cyst quickly:
Warm Compress :- Dip a towel or a soft cloth in hot water and put it on the cyst for 5-10 minutes. Repeat the procedure for 4-5 times a day and it will help in curing the cyst gradually and improve blood circulation. You can also make use of a heating pad alternately.
Apple Cider Vinegar :- It contains acetic acid that helps in killing the bacteria causing the infection. Directly apply some Apple Cider Vinegar solution on the cyst and cover it with a surgical gauze or bandage. Repeat for over a week until a hard crust appears on the cyst. Very gently remove this layer in order to break open the cyst and drain the extra fluid. Fresh skin will regrow in a couple of weeks.
Castor Oil :- Soak a cotton ball in castor oil and dab it on the sebaceous cyst gently. Take a hot water bag or compress and place it on the cotton ball. The combined effect of castor oil and the heat from the water bag or the hot compress will help in therapeutic healing of the cyst.
You can also apply a mixture of castor oil and a pinch of baking soda on the cyst.
Turmeric :- Turmeric can help a great deal in breaking open the cyst and healing it naturally. All you have to do is, boil half a teaspoon of turmeric in one cup of water. Drink the mixture every night before sleeping. Continue the remedy for ten days and you will notice changes in the cyst size and formation.
You can also make a paste of turmeric and mint and apply it directly on the cyst for half an hour.
Iodine :- Potassium Iodide solution helps in healing the skin and getting rid of bacterial infections. It is excellent anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It also works as a powerful disinfectant and antiseptic. All properties combined have an amazing healing effect on the cyst.
Baking Soda :- Prepare a mixture of baking soda, salt and water and apply the paste on the cyst. Baking soda has marvelous pH controlling properties which prevents bacterial growth and helps in keeping bacterial infections at bay.
Epsom Salt :- You can bathe in Epsom salt warm bath to get relief from pain. It contains magnesium sulphate which helps in providing relief from pain.
Tea Tree Oil :- A super anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial remedy, tea tree oil helps in dealing with bacterial and fungal skin infections and infections of the cyst. You can prepare a mix of tea tree oil and water and apply it directly on the cyst. It should contain 10% tea tree oil and 90% water. You can also apply few drops of tea tree oil on the cyst directly and cover it.
Aloe Vera :- Aloe Vera is a naturally occurring strong antibiotic which helps in treating sebaceous skin infections. Take out some juice from a fresh Aloe Vera leaf and apply it on the cyst. You can also consume Aloe Vera juice to heal the cyst.
Guava Leaves :- Boil some guava leaves in water and use the solution to wash the cyst. Guava leaves have powerful antimicrobial effects that help in healing the cyst quickly.
Increase Water Consumption :- Ensure that you drink adequate amount of water to eliminate toxic products from the body.
Maintain Hygiene :- In case the cyst pop opens unexpectedly, wash it properly with running water and use an anti-bacterial soap to clean the affected area thoroughly. Tap dry and apply antibiotic or antiseptic cream.
Use Oil Free Skin Products :- Remember to only use skin and cosmetic products that are free from oil.
Avoid Scratching or Itching :- Try your best, not to scratch or itch the cyst. Doing so can break open the same and drain pus or excess liquid which can cause infection in other parts of the body.
Sebaceous Cyst Pictures
Glimpse through these pictures of sebaceous cysts to understand how they look.
Image : A sebaceous cyst on the neck
Image :- A sebaceous cyst after removal
Image :- A 3 inch sebaceous cyst
Image :- A sebaceous cyst on the neck